H.E. Erdal Sabri Ergen, Consul General- Turkish Consulate in Mumbai, India talks to Danish Reyaz and Saif Alam Siddiqui about the economic and cultural relationship with India. How these two countries are closely associated with each other in order to achieve economic prosperity. Excerpts from the interview as follows:
Maeeshat: H.E. Erdal Sabri Ergen, as Turkey and India are very close associate, how do you look at the economic relationship of these two countries, the achievements and the future plan for economic prosperity?
Erdal Sabri Ergen: Turkey has trade of around 6-7 billion Euros with India. It’s an impressive figure. Turkey and India have healthy export import relationship.
We have to look at the trade relation and FDI of Turkish companies in India and FDI of Indian companies in Turkey and we have to look at the services sector also, in terms of trade, India is selling more goods to Turkey than turkey is selling to India and prominent among these are unfinished goods, intermediate goods and raw materials while turkey is selling machinery, food stuffs, marbles sometimes they are sold as Italian marbles, a lot of furnitures, we are also selling a lot of textile machinery while India is selling a lot of auto motives parts, machinery, chemical and petrochemicals.
On the investment side, we have many Turkish businessmen investing in India. We have a textile factory in Maharashtra and will also have an automobile factory in Pune which will be started in couple of month. We are also doing fine in services sector for example the Turkish airlines is operated in India and it’s the best European airlines which won2016 SkyTrax awards in Europe, it has a very good connection and we are looking for more flights so that India is connected to the whole world and most Indians are using Turkish airlines to go to United states etc. It’s very popular and it also provides as top over in Turkey giving an opportunity to enjoy in Turkey with no extra charges, the ground services are also getting better and better and they see a huge future in Indian airports and tourism and this is something which everybody can agree upon. We have logistical firms and some leather factories in Chennai also.
We see Turkish contractors coming to India and Turkish contractor is a very important part of the Turkish economy, they are extremely good in the world, they are in the list of 250 best contracting firms globally.
We have 43 companies which is only smaller than those of China, so we have more companies in top list than United States, Japan and others. So we are very good at it and basically what these companies are doing, since India is also a country that is growing very fast and the fastest in the world, they are increasing the capacities of Indian firms to provide infrastructures and superstructures, so what they do for example one of our biggest firm has just signed a contract on metro 3 subways and will be building one of the best places in the metro on the Sandhurst station. Moreover, we have various subcontractors which are building housing with a technology called tunnel foam technology, they can build 3000 sq feet in one day even with Indian laborer and Indian laborers are becoming more and more specialized in this technology. Demands are growing more because Indians want to live in more luxurious space, everybody is upgrading their living spaces so there is more concern for Indian public, apart from living spaces and Turkish subcontractors are responding, we have also others firms which are looking after infrastructure projects in terms of service sectors. That’s what we are contributing in Make in India campaign. is in contractors sector of course we have few factories, but our contribution in Make in India will mostly be in contracting sectors this is what President Ergon said to the PM Modi which are upcoming sectors in terms of Turkey – India economic relations.
Many Indian firms have looked up Turkey for various reasons, most of the interesting part of set up, is that Turkey is a part of European union which means if you are manufacturing in turkey you can sell your goods to European countries as you are in Europe, there is no extra tax to sell in Europe. So this has been a prospect for example the electricity rate is lower in Turkey as compared to other European countries. Trade, Investments and Services are three areas that our country relations are growing and we know that some of the countries including India are also laying their projects in Turkey in various sectors. For example very specialized projects in Izmir port for petrochemicals which is very specialized again, we are very happy as more and more Indians are working in Turkey as more and more students go Turkey for post graduate. Indians Information Technology are also growing many of the Indian IT firms have set up in Turkey. Turkish IT firms are also coming to India as the intellectual brains present in India are very much contributing to Turkish IT firms which are rapidly growing this is all like new area which needs focus.
Maeeshat: India and Turkey has very much in common. What about the India Turkey Cultural Relationship.
Erdal Sabri Erge: Culturally I think our DNAs are very much common, because if you go back 1000 years we have Turkish people and Indian people are very much connected in the history in different parts for Turkish-India have their home specially in Hyderabad. Actually with Ottoman empire the first Turkish consulate were opened in Mumbai in the year 1849 and we have sent very important people here one of the consul general was Shayer e Azam, which was the great poets and he came here and lived here and loved and endorsed the beauty of Mumbai. When he went back he has written the greatest and most famous poem of Turkish poetry and he is known by this poem which has been translated into songs and plays etc. It’s little bit darker but if you go a little bit before he talks about Mumbai and India and joyfulness and singing and oceans and Arabian seas etc. The Ottoman Empire has given a huge importance to Mumbai.
Basically the connection has started because of trade and hajj because this was the gateway from India to haj. Because if you are living in central Asia you can’t go by road you have to come Mumbai for hajj. There was almost one ship daily going to Ottoman Empire like Delhi-Mumbai flight. India has also supported the Ottoman Empire against the colonial rule in 1918 Khilafat movement were actively supported by Gandhi and Indian peoples. Khilafat house in Mumbai is the history of Turkey India relationship and we want to see it as museum dedicated to turkey India imperialism struggle which we won. A country without natural resources, no petrol, no raw materials only our engineering talents. We become the 18 biggest economies in the world. It is our important achievement and we have been very active in various phase of economy to make our population prosper. Of course we have a very active foreign policy and we have given supports to many of Muslims countries like Syria Palestinian in getting prosperous.
Maeeshat: After President Erdagon we have seen Turkey is more stable than past and now a days we have seen some groups or some powers wanted to destabilize the country so what is the reason and who is behind the game ?
Erdal Sabri Ergen: We stay in a very difficult geography and right now in the north Ukraine. one fourth of Ukraine is unstable in south its even worst Iraq is on the verge of failed state Syria is a failed state. We have 3 million refugees in Turkey which we are coping very well but European cannot cope good with 1 million refugees which is a kind of pity and then you know the Arab springs is unfortunately turned into Arab leadership and we see many flash points like Yemen and also Libya,
We have recently established democracy, in some countries we have seen the coups which have broken by all the guards and have crashed the wheel of democratic elected government in the Middle East. Some people have very much interested in uploading coups with us, but in Turkey. We believe in democracy and we have been going through coups since 1980s. We have been going one way or the other always with the democratically elected government always reflecting the will of populations and since 2002, we have a very stable government and since 2004, Mr Erdagon has become the prime minister and the decision to make elections possible were also through elected means, through the democratic means through the parliaments. We have a very active opposition we have media which is very active now of course, we have seen some of the media are against government and they are very much connected with Fethullah Gulen otherwise the opposition media are very much good in responding.
Now Syria is very much effecting the whole geography because since 2003 Iraq and then after Syria has made life very difficult, we have seen sectarianism that haven’t seen before in the recent history so what we see is very unfortunate. ISIS what they called Muslims but we can’t judge but in our eyes they are terrorist killing innocent, we can’t kill civilians.
So in terms of that we have many challenges and the challenges can only be handled with the stable government so the first things we need to do is to establish stable government in Syria and in Iraq and to establish the stable government. We need a role model around the Middle East and around the world which are democratic and stable. Turkey doesn’t show them itself as a role model or as a model but obviously, Turkey which is democratic and which is stable would be a very positive influence in bringing stability in Middle east, and we should be very careful on anybody who is a supporting of coups whether in turkey or in any other country. This is 2016 this is the 21 century military coups have no place in our world, what we need is an encompassing government, encompassing states government which reflects the will of the government living peacefully in state and prosper.
We have seen the regime bombing hospitals and others places; we must stop now we must wake up. it’s our job to come together and make life easier for everybody now this is not just the public relations exercise. We see many Christians are fighting in Ukraine and America but nobody is blaming Christians but everybody is blaming the Muslims because somebody gets up and says, “I am the Khalifa and I will bring peace to the world, I will bring peace to Boko Haram and Nigeria”, we must be very careful about that.
Maeeshat: But what do you think about emergency and many big media houses have shut down?
Erdal Sabri Ergen: But these are only Fethullah Gulen related media houses.
Maeeshat: You agree that Fethullah Gulen is threat for county and the world what do you think?
Erdal Sabri Ergen: Gulenis a preacher who lives in Pennsylvania in USA since 1998 -99, well before this government, so he didn’t go out like 2 years before he has been living in self-exposed exile since 18 years so why should he live in exile? There are many institutions, that he has set up amongst them some newspapers show that his empire is 2 billion dollars. Now he is a preacher how much he is getting everybody knows?
But in terms of setting up schools hospitals which are worth over 2 billion dollars may be its more or slightly less but how did he do that and say he did it. Like he has many followers and 3000 people is not too much actually its 1.5 percent of whole army, it’s not a big number for us. He lives in Pennsylvania its fine, he can but what is not fine is to have your followers infiltrate into administration of the Turkish Republic or any other state.
If I am consul general of Turkey I serve Turkey state and the Turkish elected government is as simple as that. I cannot serve A sheikhs or any other sectarian I cannot serve them, I serve only the elected government of Turkey if tomorrow there is another elected government, I will serve them as faithfully this is my job as administrator you know it’s part of administration.
If I want my ideology or my thoughts to come at the upper hand, I don’t infiltrate into the administration. I will set up a political party and ask for vote and if you are communist or nationalist, if you are social democrat, if you are more Islamic or some like that you set up a party going to the people. You know right wing left wing you ask for vote and if you have votes then you set up an agenda and come to power its very simple. But we cannot create sleeping cells which activates, and take over the government. Now we know that those were in the army started with this coups most of them are to be thrown out of the army in august because every year in august we have a reviews of the personal of army so this year is one of the years of the Gulen followers.
Some 3000 have attacked parliaments with jets and tanks have cut off traffic in middle of the prosperous bridge. It is unbelievable this is not a kind of real right now I am talking to you is like a very bad dream of course we cannot do, for many hours the president was not able to communicate but, He got connected from one of the TV channels which you can call actually an opposition channels. Has connected to them through video chat and he spoke to the people, He said “come on street come in front of the tanks his supporters came up it is the victory of the people it is victory of whole media”. Now certainly anything to do with Gulen movement including the media outlets are under very strong microscope, the banks, the trade house, the schools, the universities, any things to do with Gulen will be very minutely looked at there is no two ways that will be watched in 21 century coups have no place.
Maeeshat: Gulen followers are also very active in India and they have lots of instructions and hostels and they are running in Mumbai in Delhi and Hyderabad what do you think and what is your comment about it?
Erdal Sabri Ergen: Our strategy will be same throughout the world. For example if any hospital is under Gulen, we strategically take over because we don’t want to make life uneasy, but if any institutions connected with Gulen should be closed. And will be directly done with the embassies with Indian government. Anything associated with Gulen have to be closed organization of Gulen have no place not in India not in Turkey not in US not anywhere, they have infiltrated into administration just to come in power. So stays out of it stay away from it and if possible close it. We have many channels between turkey and India; we don’t just want to bring it down to one. We have been very active we are increasing our relationship, we are very happy to organize all the trade relationships etc. We are bringing bigger and bigger Turkish companies. What we need in India we are welcoming Indian companies to Turkey. We are upgrading our relation tremendously. We have very good political relation very good economic relation cultural relation as well.
Tourism has a huge potential, tourism is a kind of tolls which helps in discovering each other, it’s the time for Turkish people to come India and discover it and same like Indians to go Turkey to discover it. Rumi’s genes arerunning in both of our blood.
Maeeshat: Why Turkey dont have a cultural house in Mumbai or anywhere in India.
Erdal Sabri Ergen: It’s a good idea but in Delhi first there is a kind of closer culture there may be “kebab” or some monument. As we have said culture is a very important component and part of culture is history and part of history is all India Khilafat committee and movement, and of Course the Khilafat House. We would like to see this khilafat house as a museum dedicated to recent joined history.
Maeeshat: if someone wants to establish Turkish India friendship forum would you support?
Erdal Sabri Ergen : Its Wonderful idea and definitely we will support.