India Makes Inroads into Eastern Mediterranean in Setback for Turkeynewsbhunt


The leaders of Greece, Israel and Cyprus in a joint press meet, after the 9th Trilateral Summit in Nicosia, announced they are working towards establishing a “3+1” format with the inclusion of India in the grouping. These eastern Mediterranean countries wish to invite India so that they can enhance energy and economic cooperation as well as work together on strategic interests and counterterrorism.

Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis expressed a keen interest in forming a natural gas export partnership with India. He said that India will be invited to the bloc in the next trilateral summit, which is anticipated to take place next year, as reported by The Times of Israel.

Gas exploration and transportation was also a major part of the agenda at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s meeting with the Greek Prime Minister during his first-ever visit to Greece last month.

Major gas discoveries

The Eastern Mediterranean Sea has yielded major gas discoveries in the last 15 years, especially off the coast of Israel and Egypt.

The Tamar Field off the Israeli coast was the first of a series of large-scale natural gas discoveries in the region. Significant subsequent discoveries have been made in Israel (Leviathan), Cyprus (Aphrodite), and Egypt (Zohr), while Lebanon has been actively trying to assess its resources.

More gas exploration is underway in the exclusive economic zone of Cyprus ( EEZ: the region extending by 200 nautical miles from the sea coast). But here is where things get tricky.

Territorial disputes

Here is where things get tricky. The Eastern Mediterranean is riddled with maritime territorial disputes with Turkey asserting its claim beyond the waters assigned to it under the international law of UNCLOS. The United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea is a treaty signed by more than 167 countries and defines the rights and responsibilities of nations beyond their coasts. Under it, there are five main zones that separate marine areas are Internal Waters, Territorial Sea, Contiguous Zone, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), and High Seas. The coastal state enjoys complete sovereignty over the internal and territorial sea zones (12 nm from the baseline of the coast). The contiguous zone (24 nm) only grants state sovereignty over the ocean’s surface and floor. Further, the EEZ (200 nm) is where the state has full economic rights over resources but cannot control the freedom of navigation of other countries.

Turkish claims

Turkey rejects the UNCLOS and seeks control over several Greek islands and the territorial waters around them in the Aegean Sea. Turkey’s claims extend further into the eastern Mediterranean in a dispute with Cyprus.

Turkey’s EEZ claims clash with Cyprus. Further, the Turkey-backed TRNC’s claims clash with Nicosia’s as well. The TRNC is recognised only by Turkey and seen by most of the world as part of Cyprus.

Greece, Israel and India — all have warm ties with Cyprus, and back it against Turkey’s aggressive tactics.

Like-minded nations unite

As the stakes get higher, opposition from Turkey has grown louder, which is why these like-minded east-med nations seek to share their exploits with a like-minded major power like India to strengthen their position in the region.

Since the Russia-Ukraine war, Europe has been presenting an urgent demand for alternative sources of natural gas other than Russia. This has opened a major opportunity for East-med players to export gas to Europe, with Greece playing the role of the “Gateway”.

Natural gas can flow both ways to Europe and India through pipelines and shipments. Moreover, with Israel’s warm ties with the UAE since the Abrahamic Accord, and another Abrahamic Accord with Saudi Arabia on the cards, a road from Greece to India opens up through Israel and the Gulf countries, providing a safe and stable trade route.

Officials say this is the beginning of a grand geopolitical idea taking shape. It will open up game-changing economic opportunities, they feel.

It also strengthens the Greece-Cyprus-Israel trilateral against Turkey in the region. Turkey’s hostility towards India has already pushed New Delhi closer to Greece, Cyprus, Israel and Armenia. So not only is there economic potential in such a grouping, but also strategic like-mindedness which can go a long way to combat terrorism, extremism and cement peace in the region, officials say.

Another takeaway from this is that these nations do not want to miss out on India’s growth story, knowing the sheer size and growth projections of the country’s economy.

Back-to-back setbacks for Turkey from India ahead of G20

Ahead of the G20 summit in New Delhi that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be attending, Turkey has received back-to-back setbacks from India in what appears to be a concerted effort to send Ankara a message.

PM Modi visited Greece for the first time, becoming the first Indian prime minister to land in Athens in four decades. A week prior to the visit, Gen Anil Chauhan, the Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces, connected with the Defence Chief of Cyprus in a phone call. In the same month of August, India’s national security adviser Ajit Doval met the NSA of Armenia in another message to Turkey. Armenia is locked in a deadly conflict with Azerbaijan, an ally of Turkey, and India has even shipped the Pinaka rocket launcher to the erstwhile Soviet nation to bolster its firepower. Now, news of India becoming all set to be part of a strategic bloc in the Eastern Mediterranean, directly challenging Turkey in its backyard, is sure to ruffle some feathers in Ankara.

Over the past few years, Turkey has formed a strategic and collaborative relationship with Pakistan, adopting the rogue nation’s model of using terrorism as a strategic tool.

Turkey vehemently supports Pakistan’s claim on India’s Jammu and Kashmir and has attempted to tarnish India’s image at global forums including the United Nations. Turkey is also reported to be working with Pakistan on a radicalisation project targeting Indian Muslims, especially those in Kerala and Turkey. Turkish weapons have been found on Pakistani terrorists in Kashmir reeking of a deep partnership between Islamabad and Ankara.

Turkey has been put on the FATF grey list due to reports on terror financing at the hands of the Erdogan government. It is not just accused of using ISIS terrorists to do its regional bidding, but it emerged in 2022 that a “social organisation”, Turkey Youth Foundation (TUGVA), which is run by the family of President Erdogan, was recruiting and training youths for “covert” missions in India, Russia and China.

Turkish NGOs are also providing funding, ostensibly in the form of Zakat charity payments as part of Ramadan, for bodies engaged in anti-Indian activities in Jammu & Kashmir.

India’s timely and proactive actions may be aimed at culling Turkey’s aggressive diplomatic stance at the G20 summit.


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