Ties That Bind - Arda Ulutas, Consul General of Turkey in Hyderabad

He is the Consul General of Turkey in Hyderabad, and is at the helm of four states in India: Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Odisha. Arda Ulutas’ views and initiatives to strengthen relations between Hyderabad and Turkey have been well appreciated. In this candid conversation with You & I, he shares some details on a few key projects he’s working on in collaboration with Hyderabad.

You came to Hyderabad as the Consul General for Turkey in November 2015. What measures have you taken for the betterment of Turkish and Telugu relations?
We have deep ties and relations with Hyderabad because of the history; the founder of Hyderabad, Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah, also belongs to a Turkish tribe. Some from the Mughal dynasty also have Turkish roots, and even the Nizam family has four Turkish women as princesses: Durru Shehvar, Esra, Esin, and Niloufer. This illustrates the deep ties between India and Turkey, and that’s why Turkey decided to establish a consulate here in 2013. Opening a consulate represents the wish to enhance relations, to restore historical ties, and build the economic and cultural bonds. That’s what we’re working towards.

We have several initiatives for which I’ve met many Telangana cabinet ministers. And on the economic front, I’ve arranged meetings with the president of Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) and the presidents of The Federation of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FTAPCCI). In the cultural domain, we have many close links with people who are organising festivals like the Sufi Festival, so that we can encourage some participation from Turkey to the Sufi festivals organised by Muzaffar Ali. So in every area we are trying to strengthen our ties, and we are confident that our relations will further improve.

Could you tell us about some of your future projects?
We are focussing on encouraging businessmen from Telangana to establish their initiatives in Turkey. That was the main reason why we invited a delegation from the Turkish Union of Constructors to Hyderabad with my contact in FICCI. We are expecting their visit in October or November. To strengthen cultural ties, we are focusing on bringing some famous musicians, so that we can organise a musical festival like the Sufi Festival in Hyderabad.

Tell us about the small business entities in Turkey that are keen on establishing their businesses in Hyderabad.
We expect a delegation from FTAPCCI to visit Turkey at the end of July to meet their counterparts and to brainstorm on what they can do with the small and medium-size enterprises in Turkey. We are looking to concretise many projects in various fields like agriculture, construction, tourism, and social housing. The construction sector in Turkey is the second largest in the world, so we have good expertise at the international level. The potential between Hyderabad and Turkey is huge.

What can you tell us about Turkey’s initiative to start direct flights from Hyderabad to Istanbul? When can we expect that to begin?
This is a long issue, and as you know Turkish Airlines is one of the best companies in Europe and the world. They want to fly from Hyderabad, but we need to get a slot from the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation. Regarding this I met the secretary of Civil Aviation in the city, and we’re currently working towards making it happen. Many citizens want Turkish Airlines to fly from Hyderabad because currently a lot of time is wasted in layovers. Once this starts, it’ll just take seven hours to reach Turkey. We are confident that we’ll get the necessary slot from the union ministers soon.

Are there any particular similarities between Hyderabad and Turkey?
Of course, we have many common stories with Hyderabad, as I mentionied with the founders of the city and the princesses. Even in the cultural sense, we have common values and our way of living is also quite similar. The people of Hyderabad have a very deep sense of hospitality, they are warm and kind, and open-minded. Moreover, the cuisines are also similar, we have a dish like biryani and, although we don’t call it the same, the tastes are similar.

Does your family like it here?
Honestly, we are really happy and glad to be here. We feel at home because Hyderabadis are very hospitable and warm people, and have made us very comfortable. We also sense a huge positive energy and we have a lot of things to learn from them.

During your posting here, where else have you been in India?
We recently went to Chikkamagaluru in Karanataka. We visited the whole area thoroughly, from the forest to the hills. Apart from this, we’ve been to Warangal and New Delhi. We’ve also explored the mini cultural parts of Hyderabad. We might be visiting Hampi soon, too. There are many other cities on the list of places we’d like to visit in India, including Kerala and Goa. I hope I get the time to see all of it!

What is your favourite Hyderabadi dish?  
Of course biryani (laughs)! I also like most of the sweet delicacies you get here, and one of my favourites is the kaju barfi.     --- as told to Sneha