A Coalition Of Civilisations — Why It Is Time For India To Unite With Nations Threatened By Pakistan And Turkey

by Paul Antonopoulos - Feb 27, 2021 11:41 AM
A Coalition Of Civilisations — Why It Is Time For India To Unite With Nations Threatened By Pakistan And TurkeyPakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Snapshot
  • A Coalition of Civilisations to counter the collective threat posed by Turkey and Pakistan is ready to be established, but requires Indian leadership and initiative if New Delhi wishes to stamp its authority as a global power in the Age of Multipolarity, rather than a regional one.

The 20th century was dominated by the bipolar duality of capitalist Washington and communist Moscow competing for global supremacy.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 saw the U.S. emerge as the world’s sole superpower, enacting its interests without opposition, and engaging in military conflicts with dominance, such as the destruction of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, the wars against Iraq (1990-1991 and 2003), and the war in Afghanistan (2001).

However, this unipolar world was short-lived as regime change operations, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, saw the U.S. bogged down in endless war with little to show for the trillions of dollars spent since 2001 — Iraq remains volatile and the Taliban still enjoys control and popularity in large parts of Afghanistan.

Being bogged down in endless wars allowed regional players like Russia and China to emerge and stamp their authority as global powers with little interference from the U.S.

The first notable demonstration of an emergent multipolar world order, where there is a more equal distribution of power compacted into spheres of influence, was in 2008 when Russia militarily intervened to defend the de facto republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the Georgian Army.

Abkhazia and South Ossetia are internationally recognised by most countries as a part of Georgia, but both breakaway provinces achieved a de facto independence after the breakup of the Soviet Union.

Emboldened by promises of support from then U.S. President George W. Bush, Georgia launched an operation to recover their lost territories, but it was not anticipated that Russia would quickly intervene militarily and defend their interests in the South Caucasus.

The U.S. could only helplessly watch, unable to intervene or stop the Russian military from defeating Georgian forces.

This caused a shock in the international system as the preceding two decades saw the U.S. dominate global affairs. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, a major regional power was willing to challenge Washington’s interests and succeed.

A decline in the U.S. economy during the 2007-2008 financial crisis, coupled with multitrillion dollar endless wars, was enough to allow ambitious states to pursue their interests unilaterally, in which, among many other events, saw Russia also intervene to defend Bashar al-Assad in Syria in 2015 and China assert its authority over the South China Sea.

The age of multipolarity is not only reduced to major superpowers though, and also incorporates several regional powers too, such as Turkey, which is emboldened more than ever to act unilaterally.

Pakistan is also finding the age of multipolarity to be advantageous as it pivots towards China and Turkey to maintain its policy of pressure against India, particularly in Kashmir and through asymmetric warfare, by sponsoring continuous terrorist attacks and bombarding media and academia with anti-India propaganda.

In fact, although in theory, multipolarity should create a more balanced international system, chaos still rages across the globe, just as the 2020 invasion of the historically Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh by the Azerbaijani military, Turkish special forces and Syrian mercenaries demonstrated.

In fact, the success of the Turkish-sponsored invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, that had the full blessing of Islamabad on the very first day of the war, only further emboldened Turkey to behave, outside of its real capabilities, as a global superpower.

On 13 January, the foreign ministers of Turkey, Pakistan and Azerbaijan announced that they would collectively support each other’s ambitions for territorial expansionism — this means in support of Pakistan in Kashmir, in support of Turkey in Cyprus and the East Mediterranean against Greece, and in support of Azerbaijan against the Armenians.

A top advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Mesut Hakkı Caşın, said on 17 February at the Turkey, Pakistan and Central Asia: Partnership for Peace International Conference, that Turkey, Azerbaijan and Pakistan need to “harmonise development strategies.”

Caşın, who spoke at this so-called peace conference, has also promised to personally execute Greek pilots and threatened to kill American soldiers.

Also speaking at the so-called peace conference was Salman Shah, a Pakistani economist and Advisor to the Chief Minister of Punjab on Economic Affairs and Planning and Development.

According to Turkish state-owned media outlet Anadolu Agency, Shah cited the trade ties between the Ottoman and Mughal Empires and the “need to revive them.”

However, it would be naïve to expect that Turkey and Pakistan only want to draw trade inspiration from the Ottoman and Mughal Empires.

Turkey is bringing neo-Ottoman ambitions from the realm of theory into reality as its recent wars against Syria, Libya and the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh demonstrates.

Pakistan and its expansionist ambitions to conquer Jammu and Kashmir, adopts the ideology of Neo-Mughalism, believing that they are the successors of Turkic conquerors rather than Islamified Indians.

Undoubtedly, greater trade relations are on the Turkish-Pakistani agenda, but this is not the only inspiration that these two countries draw from the Ottoman and Mughal Empires, just as the Turkish-Azeri-Pakistani January 13 announcement attests too.

Against this axis of chaos and expansionism, serious and multilateral efforts must be made to counter this real and serious threat — a Coalition of Civilisations — stretching from India to Greece.

Whereas the pride of the Ottoman and Mughal Empires is based on territorial expansionism and the subjugation of indigenous peoples and genocide, the original civilisations of the world draw their pride from their contributions to humanity.

Of course, many of these ancient civilisations were empires, but the source of pride is not based on conquest and subjugation — for example, Greeks draw pride from inventing democracy, standardised medicine and trial by jury; Indians are proud that they had the first university, recognised zero as a number and invented the modern decimal system; and, the Egyptians famously constructed the first monumental stone building (the pyramids), irrigation and the clock — the list goes on in Syria, Iraq and Armenia too.

It is unsurprising that these countries, backed with thousands of years of civilisational history, are today focussed on achieving peace and prosperity for their citizens. Turkey and Pakistan, on the other hand, are attempting to recreate expansionist medieval empires by constructing a path of destruction in Syria, the Caucasus, Iraq, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Libya, Cyprus and elsewhere.

Multilateral efforts to build closer ties and counter Turkish aggression emerged earlier this month with the Philia Forum, the brainchild of Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias.

The Philia Forum, with Philia coming from the Greek word for friendship, was held on 11 February and saw Greece host the foreign ministers of Cyprus, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Bahrain, as well as the Minister of State for International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and had the participation of Jordan.

Although this was a first and important step to bolster East Mediterranean and Persian Gulf cooperation — two regions facing Turkish revisionism — a similar forum must be created.

A Coalition of Civilisations is to bring together the main countries facing Turkish and Pakistani threats — India, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq.

  • Turkey aims to annex Greece’s East Aegean Islands, maritime space in the East Mediterranean, and the mainland border region of Western Thrace. Pakistani pilots also fly Turkish jets that violate Greece’s airspace.
  • Turkey wants to occupy the entirety of Cyprus after they invaded the northern portion of the island in 1974. Pakistan had also once recognised the illegal (according to several UN Security Council resolution) “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus” that is recognised by no other state but Turkey. Islamabad only withdrew recognition under pressure of the United Nations.
  • Kashmir has continuously faced Pakistani-sponsored jihadist threats and attacks since the end of the British Raj in 1947. Now, Turkey, thousands of kilometres away from Kashmir, is bullying its way into South Asian affairs by championing and encouraging Pakistani expansionism into Indian territory.
  • Turkey also failed to topple Assad from power and as a result directly invaded large areas of northern Syria. Ankara is also imposing the Turkish currency, school curriculum and language over the local population of northern Syria in a Turkification process.
  • Turkey occupies large areas of northern Iraq under the guise of fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) — without coordination, approval or cooperation from authorities in Baghdad.
  • Egypt is immensely threatened by Turkey’s support for the extremist Muslim Brotherhood organisation as it aims to overthrow the secular Egyptian government. Turkey is refusing to backdown from its support for the Muslim Brotherhood.
  • Turkey maintains a policy of continuing the 1915 Armenian Genocide, and Pakistan remains the only country in the entire world to not recognise Armenia. In this manner, Turkey has been the strongest supporter of expelling the indigenous Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh.

It is for these reasons that India, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Syria, Iraq and Egypt must establish a Coalition of Civilisations to counter the persistent threats made by jihadism emanating from Turkey and Pakistan. It is only natural that India, as an emerging global superpower, must take the reins and spearhead such a coalition if it is to elevate itself to unprecedented heights of global respectability and influence.

Just as the U.S. draws on its alliances with NATO and key regional states like Colombia in Latin America, Japan in East Asia and Israel in West Asia; or China draws on Pakistan in South Asia and Ethiopia in Africa; or Russia draws on the partially recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia in the South Caucasus and Syria in the Middle East to project power and influence, India is severely lagging in having strong and reliable allies outside of its immediate neighbourhood.

India has improved relations with Japan, Australia and the U.S. in the QUAD format, but this is aimed against China rather than resisting aggression from Turkey and Pakistan. In addition, India is a participating member of QUAD rather than the leading nation of the group.

As a major power, India must first make the initiatives to build, and then lead, a Coalition of Civilisations.

India has taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to engage in humanitarian initiatives, such as providing millions of vaccines to foreign countries, but this has mostly been reduced to neighbouring states. Syria, a country with thousands of years of history, and Iraq as the cradle of civilisation, are struggling to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic due to perpetual war caused by Turkey and the thousands of Pakistanis that flooded their countries to join Islamic State and other terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda.

This provides opportunities for India to make inroads into these countries, beginning with soft power initiatives like providing Covid-19 vaccines, which can then develop into stronger trade relations and strategic cooperation, including intelligence exchanges.

This is imperative considering the thousands of Pakistanis that have fought in Syria and Iraq could in the future, or already are, become security threats to India.

Meanwhile, Egypt and India have had ties for thousands of years because of Red Sea trade routes. However, Egypt today, under President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, is facing significant pressure from Turkey as he came to power after toppling Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member in the 2013 coup.

As Sisi successfully resists the Muslim Brotherhood from regaining power, he has received endless scorn from Erdoğan, with Egypt and Turkey now having hostile relations.

Utilising this lapse in Egyptian-Turkish relations, Greece has taken every opportunity to forge a strategic alliance with Egypt, especially in the military field.

Yet, New Delhi remains mostly absent in its relations with Cairo, a fact that must change, considering it is the most populous Arab country and the fourth most populous in Africa, and is resisting Turkish-sponsored Islamic radicalism.

India must revitalise the ancient trade routes it had with Egypt via the Red Sea, in addition to joint military cooperation.

Although Greek-Indian relations drastically improved in 2020 despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the fact remains that Foreign Ministers from the two countries have not met since 2003 — a catastrophic mistake by previous decisionmakers in New Delhi and Athens.

In November last year, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Greece is a “strategic partner” with a “long-term friendship,” and Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in January this year that, “Given the political geography of the region and the influence of Turkey in some countries, it is a fact that on many issues of international interest, our positions are identical with those of India.”

The prospects of Greek-Indian bilateral relations, especially when the pandemic is overcome, is extremely positive, but New Delhi, as a pole of power in the Age of Multipolarity, must ensure that relations are converted into a multilateral format too – in which a Coalition of Civilisations would serve this purpose.

On February 16, Jaishankar held a virtual meeting with his Cypriot counterpart Nikos Christodoulides. They discussed bilateral cooperation and discussed major regional and global developments, as well as their shared perspectives.

Cyprus, as an overwhelmingly Greek populated island, was prevented from uniting with Greece due to the political games by British colonialists and the eventual invasion of the northern part of the island by Turkey.

However, despite Cyprus and Greece being two separate states, the foreign policy of Cyprus follows very carefully that of Athens. For example, on 23 November 2020, Greece and the UAE signed a defence clause, which was followed on 12 January 2021 by a Cypriot and Emirati military Memorandum of Understanding.

Greece reopened its relations with Syria on 5 May 2020, which was then followed by Cyprus on 12 May.

On 22 October 2020, Greece and India boosted military ties, which was followed by a boosting of military ties between Cyprus and India on 10 December 2020.

The relations India has with Greece will naturally reflect on the relations it will have with Cyprus.

Finally, the most recent country to suffer from the Turkish-Azerbaijani-Pakistani Axis of Chaos is Armenia, which most recently lost most of the historically Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh to the Turkish-sponsored invasion that had full Pakistani endorsement.

In fact, Pakistan remains the only country in the world to not open diplomatic relations with Armenia since it achieved independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union.

Even neighbouring Turkey, which committed a genocide against the Armenians in 1915 and occupies half of historical Armenia, recognises Armenia as a country.

Armenia, as a poor landlocked country of less than three million people, desperately needs Indian leadership to help guide it towards a prosperous future with its security guaranteed.

Although Armenia falls into the Russian sphere of influence, there is no reason why Moscow would oppose the country having much stronger trade and military relations with India.

As already stressed, a Coalition of Civilisations to counter the collective threat posed by Turkey and Pakistan is ready to be established, but requires Indian leadership and initiative if New Delhi wishes to stamp its authority as a global power in the Age of Multipolarity, rather than a regional one.

Such a coalition would also connect the East Mediterranean with the Red Sea, Persian Gulf and the West Coast of India, albeit Armenia remains isolated in this concept due to its landlocked position wedged between Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran.

However, despite Armenia’s isolated position in respect to the proposed Coalition of Civilisations, it does serve as an opportunity for India and other states to exploit its geographic location to apply pressure against Eastern Turkey.

Just as Turkey wants to use Pakistan as a staging ground for jihadists to attack India, India would be able to apply its own pressure against Turkey via Armenia as it could support the PKK.

By also connecting the East Mediterranean, Red Sea, Persian Gulf and the Western Coast of India, numerous trade routes to wealthy European markets will also emerge in a coordinated manner between these states.

India is a manufacturing powerhouse; Greece serves as an entry point to wealthy European markets; Egypt controls the Suez Canal, and Iraq has an outlet to the Persian Gulf, but also borders the East Mediterranean country of Syria — this can create a formidable economic bloc which must be established.

In addition to military and economic ties, cross cultural and academic exchanges are imperative. India, Greece, Cyprus, Armenia, Egypt, Syria and Iraq have some of the most ancient civilisations in the world, and building knowledge of our respective civilisations, their achievements, and their contributions to humanity must be known to all in the Coalition of Civilisations.

This would be the foundation block of elevating our ancient legacy to create modern achievements in the medical, scientific and technological spheres, in which again, India would be the most important country with its already impressive knowhow.

A Coalition of Civilisations is an absolutely necessary multilateral format that must be established swiftly to:

  • Consolidate India’s position as a global superpower in the Age of Multipolarity, rather than a regional one.
  • Strengthen the security of member states against collective threats emanating from ideologically neo-Ottoman Turkey and neo-Mughal Pakistan.
  • Open new trade corridors to wealthy European markets and vice-versa into India which has a burgeoning middle class as poverty rates continue to decrease.
  • Greater cross-cultural and academic exchanges some of the world’s oldest civilisations.
  • Cooperation on medical, scientific and technological endeavours.
Paul Antonopoulos is Bureau Chief for Greek City Times in Athens.
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