The Developing Eight (D-8) economic cooperation group got off to a shaky start on June 15 in Istanbul as its most passionate advocate, prime minister Necmettin Erbakan of Turkey struggled with his hawkish generals to hang on to power. He was forced to resign on June 18.
For two days (June 14 and 15), as heads of State or government of eight Muslim countries met in Istanbul to put finishing touches to the conference declaration, the generals hovered over the proceedings like vultures over a corpse. These secular fanatics had no time for Muslims; their only alleged concern was for secularism, the demonic ideology that has emerged from the bowels of western humanism which has plagued the world for much of this century.
The real battle in Turkey is between respecting the wishes of the people who are overwhelmingly Muslim and pandering to the narrow self-interest of the generals and their western masters. The generals view the D-8 as working against their interests in the long run since it will link Turkey more closely with the Muslim world.
The brutes in uniform fail to understand that as long as Turkey adhered to Islam, it was the leader of the Muslim world. Once it accepted secularism, it became the sick man of Europe. Much as it tries to curry favour with the west, it has been refused entry into the European Union (EU) and its application is not even up for consideration until 1999.
In another ironic twist, many members of the old Warsaw pact against whom Nato member Turkey was used as a forward base during the heydays of the cold war, have been granted membership in the EU. Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have got in; Turkey is still out. Yet the generals and their secularist civilian allies insist on calling themselves European even if the latter reject them contemptuously. A number of European statesmen have said that ‘Turkey is too backward, too autocratic and too Muslim’ for Europe.
The generals had started piling up pressure on Erbakan long before the D-8 summit but they showed a crude sense of timing to make their point. Bent on humiliating Erbakan, they expressed their displeasure precisely at the time when it would have been better to behave.
The D-8 is a grouping of eight Muslim countries with diverse economic and political outlooks. They are geographically not contiguous . It is a slight improvement on the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) which groups together Turkey, Iran and Pakistan with the Central Asian Republics as well as Azerbaijan and Afghanistan.
The ECO, too, has not taken off as its members had hoped. Last April, during the meeting of its foreign ministers in Tehran in preparation for the Ashgabat summit (May 13 and 14), president Hashemi Rafsanjani of Iran complained that the organisation had not made much progress despite its vast potential.
The D-8, first mooted on January 1 in Istanbul, has far greater potential. It has a market of 800 million people compared with the 300 million in ECO, although the three major players - Turkey, Iran and Pakistan - are common to both. The D-8 brings together Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Nigeria, Pakistan and Turkey to develop trade, industry and financial projects.
Its strength is that it brings in some of the leading economic movers of Southeast Asia. Its weakness lies in geography. Bangladesh and the Southeast Asian tigers are separated from the D-8 core countries by a hostile India while Egypt and Nigeria lie on a different continent with no direct links to the rest.
That, however, did not discouraged Erbakan from seeing its positive aspects. ‘The D-8 will take on an important role in solving the problems of humanity in our globalizing world,’ Erbakan told a meeting of foreign ministers from the eight countries in an opening address. He described D-8 as ‘a turning point in human history’ and ‘an organization of the new world. God willing, this group will play a big role in bringing peace and security.’
There was no shortage of cynicism in Turkey, though. ‘Even Erbakan has forgotten it,’ screamed a headline in Radikal newspaper on June 15. ‘Turkey has shown no interest in the founding summit of the D-8, which it initiated itself,’ Deniz Zeyrek, a secular writer said in the article.
Erbakan visited all D-8 countries except Bangladesh soon after coming to power last June. He fostered economic links with projects such as a $23 billion gas deal with Iran. His opponents have continued to run down the whole scheme.
Erbakan, however, continued to talk enthusiastically about major D-8 projects to build passenger aircraft, helicopters, cars and computers. Among planned areas of cooperation, Egypt will oversee trade, Turkey will coordinate industry proposals, Pakistan will be responsible for agriculture, Nigeria will oversee energy plans and Indonesia will be responsible for human resources.
Iran will oversee telecommunication projects, Bangladesh will deal with rural development and Malaysia will focus on privatization, banking and Islamic insurance or takaful.
Muslimedia - July 1-15, 1997