The view (not just) from Turkey

from Press News, posted 04/06/2013 - 16:06

It is not often that NIAS Press ventures as far west as Turkey (though in the 1990s NIAS did publish a very interesting study of the veiling issue there via Curzon Press). However, Turkey does play a role in Central Asia – something analysed in a recent NIAS Press book (see below) – and I was reminded of this issue a few days ago when Dr Doga Ulas Eralp at Georgetown University published an interesting commentary asking if the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) could be for Turkey an alternative to the EU.

Noting that earlier public support in Turkey for EU accession is dwindling, he concludes:

It is high time for EU leaders to revise their negative stances on Turkey’s membership prospects as the country and its leadership seriously start assessing authoritarian alternatives. The Obama administration should also continue pressuring its European allies to unlock Turkey’s accession process. An increasingly authoritarian Turkey that is economically and strategically aligned with the SCO will not work in favour of the EU’s future economic and political stability.

These (and other things mentioned by Dr Eralp) are very good points. However, for a far lengthier and arguably more complex analysis of Turkey’s relationship with both Central Asia and the SCO, we recommend the chapter by Anita Sengupta included in our recently published book, The Shanghai Cooperation Organization and Eurasian Geopolitics: New Directions, Perspectives, and Challenges, edited by Michael Fredholm.

In her chapter, Dr Sengupta agrees with Dr Eralp that Turkish membership of Nato and the SCO are not incompatible. Indeed, she concludes:

… given the fact that the SCO was conceived as a mechanism that would eventually be built on a diverse network of relationships and linkages, the inclusion of other states like Turkey within the organization seems logical. Similarly the holistic view of stability that the organization espouses means that a significant cultural and educational linkage between the Central Asian region and Turkey cannot be denied. The issue of the expansion of membership, however, remains a debated one within the SCO.

And arguably that is the key problem: not all SCO members (and especially not China) are keen on expanding the organization. At the same time, quite a few neighbouring countries (like India and Pakistan, for instance) are clamouring for entry and already have observer status. Geopolitical instability in the region (not least the approaching endgame in Afghanistan) and a desire for energy security are two factors driving this interest. Hence although (as Dr Sengupta notes) at the 2012 SCO summit in Beijing, no new members were admitted, Turkey was granted Dialogue Partner status; this could be a first step in this direction.

Of course, the Turkish issue is just one facet of a complex picture presented by the volume, its main emphasis being on the geopolitical situation in Central Asia (especially Sino-Russian rivalry), military tensions, jihadi movements and terrorism, separatism, infrastructural developments and (not least) energy security.

In other words, this is a highly recommended book and one we are pleased to note is selling well.


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