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Perspectives on Turkey's Multi-Regional Role in the 21st Century.

Perspectives on Turkey's Multi-Regional Role in the 21st Century

Edited by Mujib Alam

New Delhi: Knowledge World Publishers, 2015, pp. xxxiv+344, $19.71, ISBN: 9789383649556.


A cursory look at the map of Turkey brings home the appropriateness of the title under review. Sitting astride the Bosporus Straits that connect the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the country is situated in several overlapping regions: East Europe, Eastern Mediterranean, Caucasus, Central Asian, Black Sea and West Asia. Turkey has been a staunch ally of the United States and a loyal member of NATO since 1953. Its location and participation played a significant role during the U.S. war on Iraq in 1991 and the subsequent 'war on terror,' earning it the epithet, the 'most geostrategic piece of real estate in the world.' Since then, Turkey has gone on to pursue an active and assertive foreign policy--aspiring to become a global energy hub, a mediator in regional disputes, a leader of and a role model for the Muslim world, and a peace-maker with its own separatists. Its stunning economic strides have helped in the process. 2023 will mark the centenary of the country's independence. Former Foreign Minister and current Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu envision Turkey to be a global power and an active contributor to the global order in cultural, economic and political sense by that time.

Mujib Alam's book is timely, as it takes stock of the situation at present and looks ahead to the future. The volume is an outcome of an international conference held at the New Delhi-based Central University, Jamia Millia Islamia. Mujib Alam, the editor of the volume, has brought together some sixteen scholars to contribute to the increasing pool of literature on contemporary Turkey. Besides Indian scholars, the contributors include academics from Turkey, Iran, and Slovakia. The book covers almost all aspects of the Turkish role and its foreign policy in a well-rounded treatment. One of the strengths of this volume is that it has brought together various perspectives --some very divergent - on the various aspects of Turkey's role in the twenty-first century.

The first three chapters introduce the broad theme by looking at Turkey's domestic transformation and its reflection in foreign policy since Ottoman times, laying out the conceptual framework of the AK Party's (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi or Justice and Development Party) foreign policy with reference to its discourse on the "alliance of civilizations," and examining the doctrine of "strategic depth" as the AK Party's guiding principle.

With the history, ideology and doctrine of the Turkish foreign policy in place, the book proceeds to look at the country's relations with multiple regions. Three chapters are devoted to Turkey's neighbors in West Asia (or the Middle East). The chapters on Syria and Iran assert Turkey's elevation to a "global swing state." Based on strong energy ties, its relations with Iran are further cemented by Turkey's refusal to support the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and its distancing from Israel. Turkey's relations with Israel became strained after Israeli troops killed nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists in 2010. There is hope for a tremendous scope of improvement in the future in their bilateral relations.

Three chapters are devoted to the European Union's policies towards Turkey, which appear to be guided by competition as well as cooperation with reference to West Asia, as the EU is worried about the latter's greater influence and regional activism. A future projection on EU-Turkey ties relies on the foreign policy imperatives of both, as well as the evolving world order. The complicated path of Turkey's accession to the EU may see more problems ahead in view of Turkey's assertion of its Muslim identity.

Perspectives on Turkey's Multi-Regional Role in the 21st Century singles out some transnational communities for independent study; the Uyghurs, for example, are examined in the context of Turkey-China relations. Central Asia, Cyprus, Afghanistan and Africa are covered in separate chapters. In short, like Turkey itself, the book reaches out to the entire world. There is hardly any significant gap in the scrutiny of Turkey's influence in association with the larger global context.

The book is very well-produced, the editing and proof-readings are of good quality, and the index at the end is helpful. It is a welcome addition to the growing literature on an interesting and important actor on the world scene today.

Reviewed by Gulshan Dietl, Jawaharlal Nehru University
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Author:Dietl, Gulshan
Publication:Insight Turkey
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2016
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