The current week (April 25-30) is an important one for India, as the Indian diplomacy is in for a tough balancing act.
While Indian Vice President Hamid Ansari arrived in Armenia on April 24, President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades reached India on April 25 for a five-day visit. Also, India is set to receive Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on April 30. Senior officials of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) have admitted that it is a tough task for New Delhi to hold talks with Turkey, Cyprus and Armenia simultaneously, keeping in mind that Turkey does not recognise Cyprus and President Erdogan is against the reunification of island nation (Northern Cyprus is still under Turkish control). The Turkey-Armenia ties are even worse.
Upon his arrival in Yerevan, the Indian vice president visited the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial Complex on April 25 and paid homage to victims of the great Armenian genocide. The first genocide of the 20th century (as claimed by Pope Francis I) took place in 1915-17, when the Ottoman government allegedly exterminated 1.5 million Armenians.
The MEA said in a statement that the main purpose of Vice President Ansari’s ongoing five-day visit to Armenia and Poland was to discuss India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). According to the statement, the visiting Indian leader will also discuss various ways to boost bilateral ties with the Armenian president, prime minister and foreign minister during his stay in Yerevan. Interestingly, Ansari’s visit to Armenia coincides with the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the MEA is gearing up for the April 30 meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Turkish president in New Delhi. With President Erdogan just winning a referendum that has strengthened him with additional powers, New Delhi hopes that it will be able to change Turkey’s mind on supporting India’s NSG membership bid. New Delhi also wants to boost economic ties with Ankara.
These engagements have kept the MEA on its toes mainly because of Eastern Europe’s fragile geopolitics. Ankara confirmed President Erdogan’s visit to India soon after New Delhi announced that Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan would visit the South Asian country later this year in order to mark the 25th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties.
The Turkish president will reach New Delhi on April 30, when Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades will leave the country after concluding his five-day visit. Cyprus has been sharing close ties with India since the days of former President Makarios III. In the past, Nicosia positioned itself as a gateway for Indian exports to the European market.
A senior MEA official, who wished to remain anonymous, has said that relations between Turkey, Armenia and Cyprus have made India’s job difficult. Although India wants to maintain cordial ties with all the three countries, New Delhi is well aware of the fact that it is a tough job. However, Indian diplomats are ready to take the challenge because NSG membership, too, is important for the country.