Turkey is going all out to woo Bangladesh. After inaugurating a plush embassy campus at Ankara, Turkey has now evinced interest in selling weapons to the Sheikh Hasina government. The issue was discussed in a meeting between Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen despite not being on the agenda.
“This was not in the agenda. But the Turkish minister shared the idea of defence cooperation,” the Daily Star quoted Momen as saying.
The Daily Star added that the though Bangladesh wants to diversify its source of defence purchase, “there was no prompt reply.” The minister said that while Bangladesh may consider the offer, it is more interested in trade and investment.
According to the Middle East Institute, from 2012 to 2016, Turkey-Bangladesh relations were strained as the Turkish government strongly condemned the International Crimes Tribunal’s (Bangladesh) indictment, conviction and execution of leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami, the largest Islamist party in the south Asian country. “Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which adopted a political Islamist ideology in 2011, forsaking its liberal democratic stance, has provided support to the Muslim Brotherhood network across the world, including the Jamaat-e-Islami Party in Bangladesh.”
The think tank also noted that on May 12, 2016, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had issued “a scathing condemnation of the Bangladeshi government’s use of capital punishment against Motiur Rahman Nizami, head of the Jamaat-e-Islami Party.”
Foreign policy analysts said that relations between the two countries “has not been very smooth” despite the two sharing cultural bonds. “Let us also not forget that Turkey is losing its middle ground while Bangladesh is trying to boost its secular plank,” an analyst said.
Though Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was greatly inspired by Atatürk when he led the Bengali nation to statehood in 1971 through a war of independence, Turkey diplomatically and even militarily supported Pakistan during the 1971 Liberation War.
However, Turkey is trying to win back Bangladesh.
Ankara’s response to the Rohingya refugee emergency has served as a vehicle to put the relationship back on a stable and productive footing, the Middle East Institute noted. The Turkish government has openly supported Bangladesh in the United Nations, the G20, MIKTA (a middle power grouping consisted by Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Turkey, and Australia), the OIC, and other multilateral fora especially in relation to the Rohingya issue.
Recently, Turkey has also been providing support to Pakistan as it tried to bring the Kashmir issue in the wake of the abrogation of Article 370 on the platform of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC).
“The government of Turkey under Erdogan, along with an agency like Diyanet, is certainly working towards a larger role in the Islamic world and more in the predominately populated Muslim countries such as India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia,” the Society for the Study of Peace and Conflict highlighted.
A few foreign policy analysts also noted that Turkey may come up with more focused measures that strengthen ties with Bangladesh at a time when New Delhi and Dhaka are moving fast on a track to promote bilateral ties—both political as well as economic.
“Bangladesh is a very smart country, they are primarily secular as it has been reflected several times, so it may not be very easy for Turkey to woo them but at the same time, India needs to be watchful, being the largest neighbour of Bangladesh. A peaceful Bangladesh is good for India,” the analyst said.