Radical Islamist organizations in India may be receiving support and funding from Turkey in such important areas as Kerala and Kashmir, according to the Hindustan Times.
"There is an effort to radicalize Indian Muslims and recruit coordinated fundamentalists from Turkey," said a senior Indian government official, underscoring New Delhi's suspicions of Turkey's emergence as "the centre of anti-Indian activity" after Pakistan.
The geostrategic movement has been developing in recent years after Imran Khan, Pakistani Prime Minister, approached Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, at the same time as India established important ties with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which were identified as the two key benefactors of Islamabad in West Asia and are now diplomatic enemies of Qatar, which is a preferential partner of Erdogan's Turkish regime. The Kingdom and UAE encouraged a political and economic blockade on the Qatari state in 2017, along with Egypt and Bahrain, after accusing the Gulf monarchy of supporting cross-border terrorism. Qatar suffered a major financial blow from this embargo, which led to its rapprochement with Turkey and Iran as new preferential partners.
Ankara's attempt to expand its influence among South Asian Muslims is set against the backdrop of President Erdogan's continued tone of challenging Saudi Arabia's dominance in the global Islamic world and offering a conservative and reformed Ottoman-style Turkey as a model for other Islamic nations. In this sense, one can also understand the good relations that the Eurasian country maintains with the Islamic Republic of Iran, a great representative of the Shiite branch of Islam, as opposed to the Sunni branch sponsored by the Saudi kingdom, a great diplomatic rival in the Middle East of the Ayatollahs' regime.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to become the great banner of Islam and the Muslims; proof of this is the latest symbolic and relevant fact of converting the museum of Hagia Sophia in Istanbul into a mosque. The temple had become a mosque after the Ottoman conquest of Constantinople, now Istanbul, and from mosque to museum in 1934 to become a mosque again now by decree of the Turkish state. The change fits in with Recep Tayyip Erdogan's long-term plan to project himself as a global protector of Muslims, like the leaders of the former Ottoman Empire.
Just last year, steps were taken in the direction of building an alliance of non-Arab Islamic countries along with nations like Pakistan and Malaysia, with the Eurasian nation as a major representative. Iran and Qatar, Turkey's partners, were also invited to this initiative. In this scenario, Islamabad ended up approaching Ankara after New Delhi deepened its aforementioned diplomatic ties with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, a side from which the Erdogan regime is distant.
However, Imran Khan withdrew from the meeting at the last minute due to Saudi pressure; although he was able to fix the situation with Erdogan, even emulating some of his policies in his country.
Indian authorities believe that Erdogan's political agenda has led his government to expand its influence over Muslims in South Asia, particularly those in India, as noted by the Hindustan Times.
Indian officials said the Turkish government had been funding Kashmiri's radical separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani for years. Precisely, there is still a frozen conflict between India and Pakistan over the Kashmir region and this is not lost on the Muslim world.
According to the Hindustan Times, Erdogan's Executive has been funding religious seminaries in India by recruiting fundamentalists to radicalise citizens and even bringing in new radicals by means of all-expenses-paid trips to Turkey to reinforce their Islamic learning.
Certain security sources also referred to a radical Islamist organization based in Kerala that had been receiving funding from Turkey for some time. "We are also aware that some people from this group travel to Qatar to meet some people from Turkey in order to seek funds for their activities," a government official said, according to the Hindustan Times.
In addition, officials said Ankara, along with Islamabad, has also been funding Zakir Naik, the controversial Islamic preacher accused of radicalizing Muslims across Qatar. Indian agencies have been pursuing Naik, who is currently based in Malaysia, for giving hate speech allegedly used to incite terrorist activity.
Turkey has become Pakistan's "new Dubai" on a smaller scale, one of the official's sources added, referring to the city in the United Arab Emirates that used to be the second home of Pakistan's intelligence services between 2000 and 2010 and the epicenter of anti-Indian activities in West Asia. During this decade, Pakistan was able to radicalise some Indians and turn them against their own country. It is also at this point that the founders of the Indian terrorist group Mujahideen began to radicalize, according to the Hindustan Times. However, since 2014, the Emirates has become one of India's closest partners.
Indian security officials believe much of this Ankara-funded radicalization effort was being carried out in coordination with the Pakistani state. In fact, Recep Tayyip Erdogan was the only world leader to speak out against India at the UN General Assembly on the Kashmir conflict. Also, on a visit to Pakistani territory earlier this year, he continued to state that Kashmir is as important to Turkey as it is to Pakistan.