New Delhi : The emergence of influential groups in Turkey as the promoter and protector of terrorist networks, including the remaining members of ISIS—evidence of which is being collected on a regular basis by intelligence agencies—has opened another area of concern for India’s security establishment, which has the job of keeping an eye on the security scenario in India and beyond. Informed sources believe that it has become imperative to stop Turkey under its present leadership from emerging as another haven for scattered terror groups, whose ultimate objective, the sources believe, is to regroup and carry out crippling terror attacks across the world, including in the United States and India.
The recent decision by the Financial Action Task Force (FAF) to put Turkey on what is colloquially called the “grey list”, sources said, was taken in view of these worrying developments that included entities in Turkey helping terror groups and terrorists generate finance for themselves.
Various intelligence agencies have been warning their legislative heads about the policies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is alleged to be using terror groups, including the ISIS like an official arm of the Turkish government.
What has added to the worry is that despite being explicitly informed that its pro-ISIS activities were not secret, the Erdogan government has refused to stop them. Last year in November, it emerged 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.
The foundation is known for facilitating young Turkish people getting government jobs in the field of diplomacy, intelligence and security. As a part of the programme, the selected candidates were to be sent to these countries for further study in their respective fields. The four-year programme also included teaching and guidance by foreign personnel who were hired by the foundation. The said programme was alleged to have been monitored by President Erdogan personally.
As per a leaked internal report that revealed the existence of this programme, an individual named Islamil Emanet, the president of TUGVA, and Bilal Erdogan, the Turkish President’s son, are the brains behind the foundation’s operations. The close links between the TUGVA and the Turkish intelligence agency, the MIT, are well known.
Sources following the developments stated that TUGVA was also working with a charity, Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (Insan Hak ve Hurriyetleri ve Insani Yardim Vakfi, or IHH), which has been accused of allegedly helping Al-Qaeda and the ISIS terrorists in the past.
Significantly, IHH has also established ties with a controversial Indian organisation, the Popular Front of India (PFI), with two of PFI leaders being invited to Istanbul by the IHH in October 2018. PFI, security agencies allege, is an offshoot of the banned terror group, Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI).
In January 2021, a European parliamentarian had raised a question in European Parliament highlighting the issue of Turkish funding of anti-India forces. In his question, a Greek parliamentarian, Emmanouil Fragkos, quoting two Indian security service reports, had claimed that Turkey was channelling funds into the activities of former ISIS members in India that were seeking to radicalize Indian Muslims and achieve large-scale destabilization through a “transfer of know-how”.
According to Fragkos’ allegations, radical elements in Pakistan, too, were helping Turkey. Fragkos alleged that Turkey was using state-controlled media and other organisations, including educational institutes and NGOs such as the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency (TIKA), the Yunus Emre Institute (YEI), the International Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkey-Pakistan Cultural Association and the governing board of the Turkish Diaspora Youth Academy (YTB), to fund such actions in India.
The parliamentarian further stated that Turkish NGOs were 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. Reports also mention that the TUGVA has close links with parties and entities in Pakistan, such as Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and its youth wing or the Students Islamic Organization (SIO). He further added that susceptible Indian students, under scholarship schemes, were being brought to Turkey and put in touch with Pakistani organisations active in destructive operations against India.
How long China will succeed in protecting Pakistan and Turkey from the FATF “black list” is a question being asked in those capitals that are battling the effects of terror and extremist groups.