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An overdue recognition

With its long-overdue move of abrogation of Article 370 that gave special status to the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, and which is also claimed to be one of the ‘blunders’ of the independent India’s policy-makers, India has, undeniably, established two significant things—first, its unshakable political will, and second, its internationally recognized diplomatic prowess. Modi Government deserves credit for doing what other governments couldn’t have dared to attempt in ‘another 60 years’. On the other side, India’s diplomatic success reflects in the whole-hearted support to the move that India received from Russia, Saudi Arabia, among other major countries.

But, at the same time, India’s cumbersome neighbour appears to be crying bloody tears. Pakistan, after India’s strategic move, has gone head over heels to almost every major regional and global power in the world, and perhaps, knocked the doors of every International Forum to spew venom against India. Albeit, some of Pakistan’s economic and religious partners, like China, Turkey and Malaysia raked up the Kashmir issue at Global Platforms to express their solidarity to a snivelling Pakistan. 

China knows the cost of effecting a real break with India. So at recently-concluded UNGA, China abstained from making any tough statement against India, as it has its own fish to fry with the giant economic power next door. Malaysian PM Mahathir Bin Mohamad made an absurd remark by calling India an invader in Kashmir, and later posted the same statement on social media too. However, he did so with a view to appease his domestic Muslim-majority population. Even so, this hardening on other country’s domestic issue to soften own’s voter base must be slammed.

Now, come to Turkey, which has, perhaps, staked relations in every dimension it has with India time and again, to extend its all-out support to Pakistan. Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has raked up the Kashmir issue at several International Platforms, including the UNGA that concluded last month, and has made inflammatory and intimidating remarks against India. By all means, Turkey’s over-enthusiastic support for Pakistan and the hostile stance towards India has long been a matter of concern for Indian Governments. In this backdrop, isn’t it time for India to take a counter-step by giving proper, deserving and long-pending recognition to the “Armenian Genocide”?

Now, before I shed some light upon the ugly and brutal Armenian Genocide, it is worth mentioning that how the word ‘Genocide’ has lost its significance owing to the unnecessary and erroneous usage of it for every small incident in the recent times. Some countries like Pakistan have undermined the significance of the word genocide with their irresponsible and politically-motivated use of it, for fabricating false stories to carry out their daunting agenda in the states like Kashmir. 

Nevertheless, against this backdrop, genocide is an event where the people of a certain ethnicity or religion or, in fact, that whole community of the particular ethnicity or religion is suppressed, humiliated and killed by the state’s government or an organization. The atrocities on Jews in Germany are a well-founded instance of genocide where about 6 million innocent Jews were butchered. Armenian genocide appears to be another gruesome example of the inhumane exercise that has been buried under the burden of self-interests of its perpetrators and vested-interests of those who bore the witness.

The systematic way, the government of Ottoman Empire carried out mass extermination of Armenians between 1915-1923, the same systematic way has been used by its successor Turkey to enshroud the horrific tortures and killings of 1.5 million innocent Christian and Jewish people. And, that horrendous mass slaughter, today, needs its due recognition at the world stage. The Ottoman Empire—which is known to be one of the greatest empires of history—was actually not a saint either.   

Now, the question arises is that why an empire would inflict such brutality on its own citizens? The 20th century turned out to be a dawn of doom for the Ottoman Empire. The pain of losing in World War I— which costed the empire an arm & a leg—and the insecurities of further losing even its hefty tax base led the Ottoman Empire to perform a bloodbath of its own citizens. The Christian and Jewish community, which despite the discriminatingly insufficient resources provided to them, turned up more flourished and richer than the Muslims and Turks, and formed a significantly mammoth tax base for Ottoman Government. The Ottoman emperors needed their ‘Jazya’ (tax) to balance out their immense debt.

The obvious insecurities of losing out on two significant fronts—first, their allegiance to the other empires like Russian empire or British empire, and second, the larger chunk of ‘Jazya’ (tax) that these two communities used to pay—frightened the Ottoman Government to the extent that it planned to suppress the two communities to instil the spirit of fear in them. Mass rapes, horrific tortures and indiscriminately brutal killings defined the inhumane picture of Armenian Genocide to the whole world after the disintegration of Ottoman Empire post World War I. 

Surprisingly, despite the cognizance of occurring savagery, the world community remained indifferent, as most of the major powers themselves were engaged in the killing spree of World War I, while others, who were not involved, played a marvellous role of mere mute spectators. 

Thanks to the extensive researches, studies and informal investigations carried out by the historians with the help of elderly Armenians that corroborated the fact of genuinely committed genocide of the Armenian Christians and Jews. Although, Turkey has gone all out to duck this brutal chapter of its history and tried to play it down every time and again. But, irrespective of Turkey’s stance, several major powers including Russia, Germany, Canada, Brazil, Argentina and others came out and recognised mass extinction of 1.5 million Armenian Christian and Jews. 

The horrific genocide got its recognition at the international platform, when the United Nations, in 1985, brought a historic UN Report on Armenian Genocide called the ‘Whitaker Report’, that officially mentioned the cruelty inflicted on Armenians. Later in 2015, Pope Francis called the Armenian Genocide ‘’the first genocide of 20th century’’ only to see Turkey fuming with rage and accusing the Pope of harbouring a ‘’Crusader Mentality’’ against the country.

Interestingly enough, a number of major countries like US, UK, China, Australia and even India have not yet recognised the mass-murders of Armenians, fearing their relation with Turkey in several domains and, most importantly, trade. Ironically, our neighbour Pakistan has gone an extra mile in support of Turkey by being the only country in the world which doesn’t even recognise Armenia as a country, let alone giving recognition to the Armenian Genocide. Moreover, Pakistan also lent its all-out backing to Azerbaijan during the 1918’s Armenian-Azerbaijani War. Owing to its subservient allegiance to Turkey, Pakistan, in return, gets whole-hearted support from Ankara on major issues like Kashmir.

Recently, Turkish President Erdoğan drew flak from India, and also got a befitting reply when he unnecessary ignited Kashmir issue at UNGA, last month. Now, it is noteworthy that India, itself, hasn’t yet recognised the Armenian Genocide. In this backdrop, the larger question that India faces today is that should we, too, give our recognition to the mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians?

Let us understand. India-Turkey bilateral trade, today, stands at roughly $7.8 billion, from which Turkey benefits the most. Further, the aim is to take it to a whopping  $10 billion, which seems highly unlikely, provided the current scenarios. For Indians, Turkey is an important tourist destination. According to the 2019 data, a massive jump of 56% has been witnessed in Indian tourists visiting Turkey that makes Indians an important contributor to Turkey’s tourism industry. The Turkish Government recently organised a ‘Visit Turkey’ festival in India to invite more Indian tourists. For India, Turkey is an important investment destination in the long run. Presently, about 150 companies have themselves, already, registered in Turkey, while several other companies including India’s blue-chip companies are exporting cars and other equipment to Turkey.

So, taking everything into account, since President Erdoğan raked up the Kashmir issue, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Armenian PM Nikol Pashinyan on the sidelines of UNGA in New York, sending out a message loud and clear to Turkey that India may bring about a drastic change in its policy towards the Armenian Genocide. Now, the ball is in Turkey’s court as it knows the inevitably uncontrollable consequences and the international pressure it would bring to bear upon Turkish Government if a major country like India with a massive 1.3 billion population goes ahead to give its long-overdue recognition to the Armenian Genocide.  Meanwhile, not just Indian Government but other major superpowers, too, need to spare a thought for Armenians on humanity grounds and ask themselves that “don’t the horrific ordeals of 1.5 million Armenian Christians and Jews even deserve a recognition?’’

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