No country can see any conflict as ‘not my war’: Turkish envoy and author Firat Sunel

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New Delhi, Mar 14 (PTI) The world today is smaller than ever and wars, be it the Russia-Ukraine conflict or in Gaza, affect everyone and it is the commitment of major powers such as India and Turkiye to find solutions, says Turkiye Ambassador to India Firat Sunel who explores the theme in his latest novel.

No country, including Turkiye and India, can see any armed conflict in terms of 'not my war', said the bestselling Turkish author who comfortably straddles the two worlds of literary and diplomacy.

"The Lighthouse Family", the recently launched English translation of his Turkish novel "Sarpincik Feneri", is a heartrending tale set in the backdrop of the Second World War. The beautifully told historical fiction centres around a loving family living in an isolated lighthouse in Turkiye's westernmost tip and ripped apart by the consequences of a war that was not even theirs.

Turkiye didn't take part in World War 2.

"The Russia-Ukraine war or the war in Gaza... we cannot say it is not my war because it affects our life and it is also (our) commitment to try to find a solution in this regard. Turkiye and India are major powers in their respective regions, big economies and very influential in politics. So this is also our commitment to find solutions," Sunel told PTI.

The 58-year-old said Turkiye has played an "active role" in Gaza and particularly in the Russia-Ukraine war where his country has been acting as both "mediator and facilitator".

"Finding a peaceful solution to conflicts through mediation and facilitation is a pillar of Turkish foreign policy. And we have been doing this in several places in the world, from Venezuela to Afghanistan to the Philippines, Somalia, and many other places," he added.

The current war in Ukraine began on February 24, 2022, when Russia sent its military forces to invade the neighbouring country. The ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict was triggered by the October 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel that resulted in the killing of over 1,200 people and taking 240 as hostages.

Talking about the India and Turkiye relationship, Sunel said people of both countries know the true meaning of word 'dost' -- which he claimed is among the 9,000 common words used in Turkiye and India -- and have been the same to each other.

He recounted that the friendly relationship between the two countries goes back centuries. One of Turkiye's first consulates, Sunel said, was opened in India in the 15th century and Indian people provided "military and moral support" to the Turkish 'War of Liberation' from 1919-23.

"They (Indians) organised fund raising campaigns for Mustafa Kemal Pasha's Army and India's independence is also inspired from Turkey's War of Liberation like other colonial countries. Also, the Indian independence movement was very closely followed in Turkiye as well. Immediately after independence we recognised the independence of India and opened our embassy in 1948," he said.

The relationship, the ambassador underscored, has only developed over the recent years in all aspects under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Turkiye President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

"Our relations are developing in all regards and all aspects, especially in economy and commerce. 10 years ago our bilateral trade was about USD 6 billion but last year it was more than USD 13 billion. More than double in 10 years. Our new target is to make it USD 20 billion soon.

"Tourism is also a major area of cooperation between our countries. Before Covid, the highest number was 2.3 lakh Indian tourists visiting Turkiye, last year it was 2.7 lakh. This year, we are expecting 4 lakh tourists from India to Turkiye." Sunel, who is about to complete his fourth novel, took charge as Turkish ambassador to New Delhi in 2021 and now can't wait to write novels set in "big and colourful" India.

"India has been such a nice experience for me. Sooner or later I'll write at least two books about India. Both fiction," he said.

The English translations of Sunel's two other novels, "Izmirli, My Last Love" and "In the Shade of the Weeping Willows", are expected to hit the stands by the end of this year and in 2025, respectively.

"The Lighthouse Family", published by Penguin Random House India (PRHI), is also available in Malayalam, Tamil and Kannada. PTI MG MIN MG MIN

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