Amid Strained Ties, ‘Invest in Turkey’ Billboards Surface in Srinagar

Hoardings calling for investment in Turkey came up in Srinagar. KO Photos by Abid Bhat

‘These hoardings have come up at a time when Kashmiris are being hounded for their Turkey trips’

SRINAGAR’S iconic business hub the Poloview has become an eye-catching site for an ironic commercial.

A number of advertising hoardings asking Kashmiris to “Invest in Turkey” have come up amid strained diplomatic ties between India and Turkey.

The departure from the usual sight has already set the speculations rife with many wondering, “Is it a new beginning in the ties of the two hostile nations locking horns over Kashmir till yesterday?”

The hoardings have been placed by New Delhi-based Immigration Consultancy, “Olives & Figs”—a boutique firm offering advisory service across three regions: UAE, Turkey and India.

The Consultancy offers a number of benefits including Turkish Residence, Free Healthcare, Free Education and Visa-Free Travel.

A woman executive of the company told Kashmir Observer that they have placed the hoardings first in Mumbai and then in Srinagar, with an aim to help people to get benefits.

When asked who gave the permission for installing these hoardings across the city, the official said, “The management committee of the company must know about this.”

The upper ladder of the company, however, stayed tight lipped about the Srinagar spectacle.

Meanwhile, feigning ignorance over the matter, an official from Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) said that they are not aware of such hoardings.

“We have given the contract of putting the hoardings to Alpine company and their contract was over on April 14, 2021,” Sofi Mohammad Akbar, Chief Revenue Officer, SMC told Kashmir Observer.

“We will remove all the hoardings in the coming days,” he added.

Notably, India and Turkey enjoyed good bilateral relations over decades before tensions rose due to Ankara’s constant support to Islamabad on various issues, including on Kashmir.

The bilateral ties further plummeted after the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370 in August 2019, withdrawing the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.

Soon after throwing his government’s weight behind Imran Khan’s “Kashmir’s global ambassador” campaign, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in February 2020 compared the struggle of Kashmiris with the Ottoman Empire’s World War I showdown.

“The troubles our Kashmiri brothers have suffered for decades have been exacerbated by the latest unilateral steps,” Erdogan said.

The statement drew a sharp retort from external affairs ministry: “These remarks reflect neither an understanding of history nor of the conduct of diplomacy.”

“These hoardings have come up at a time when Kashmiris are facing hounding for their Turkey trips,” said a newsman whose Istanbul trip last year fared on the police radar.

“It’s like running with the hare and hunting with the hounds.”

Interestingly, among those summoned for their Istanbul trip was the grandniece of Bakhshi Ghulam Mohammad, the former Prime Minister of Jammu and Kashmir, apart from some scribes and students.

A police official adept in dealing with these cases told Kashmir Observer that a trip to Turkey is akin taking a flight to Pakistan.

“Since both these countries house a vocal Kashmir support, the visitors there do face background checks,” the officer said. “There’s nothing alarming about it. It’s just part of the process.”

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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