Is Fethullah Gulen The Real Reason Between Diplomatic Tensions Between India and Turkey?

Amid escalating diplomatic tension between India and Turkey, New Delhi has issued an advisory for Indian tourists planning to visit Turkey, asking them to “exercise utmost caution” while visiting the country. It all started when Turkey, provoked by Pakistan lashed out against India over Kashmir at the United Nations general assembly. But why have ties turned so sour between New Delhi and Ankara?

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Turkey has emerged as a popular destination for Indian travellers. Turkey registered a 56% rise in the number of tourist arrivals from India between January and July this year. Nearly 1,30,000 Indian tourists visited the country during this period.

“Government of India has been receiving queries from Indian nationals on travelling to Turkey in view of the situation in the region. Although there have been no reports of untoward incidents in the country so far involving Indian nationals, travellers are requested to exercise utmost caution while travelling to Turkey,” the Indian Embassy in Ankara tweeted.

Relations between India and Turkey have worsened in last few months after Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the 73rd UN General Assembly session attacked India over the abrogation of Article 370 by the Modi government in Jammu and Kashmir.

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The relations have deteriorated to an extent that India has to cancel PM Narendra Modi’s two-day visit to Turkey which was scheduled later this month.

Turkey’s close ties with Pakistan is also one reason behind cold relations with New Delhi. Turkey also supported Pakistan during the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) plenary meeting in Paris earlier this month, a stance which did not go down well with India.

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Fethullah Gulen

Turkish President is reportedly also upset with India for not cracking down on the institutes of his political rival – Fethullah Gulen. Turkey blames the Fethullah Gulen Terrorist Organisation (FETO) for a failed coup to topple Erdogan in 2016. Ankara has alleged that FETO has “infiltrated” India, and Erdogan feels India is not doing enough to curb its activities.

Earlier, Islamabad closed 28 Pak-Turk schools in Pakistan which were linked to Fethullah Gulen’s organisation. The Supreme Court had earlier instructed the government to declare Gulen’s organisation a terrorist group and ordered handing over of the schools to the Maarif Foundation.

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Turkey had established the Maarif Foundation in 2016 after a coup attempt. It was tasked with taking over the administration of overseas schools linked to Gulen’s organisation. It also establishes schools and educational centres internationally.

The Pak-Turk schools were administered by a foundation linked to Gulen, once an ally of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. However, since the abortive coup attempt in 2016, the Turkish leadership has blamed Gulen for sponsoring the overthrow attempt, resulting in a global crackdown on the religious and educational network led by him.

Ankara accuses Gulen of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.