Media perhaps has never been divided more over the visit of a delegation to India, as was seen from visit of the delegation of Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to New Delhi and J&K. Polarization of the media appears complete but for odd exceptions in some dailies contrary to known rigid political alignments. Who is Madi Sharma, what of her NGO, on whose behest was the EU delegation visit organized (Madi’s initiative or BJP-RSS?) will continue to be discussed. But it is more than apparent that it was a diplomatic manoeuvre orchestrated by the Modi Government and a deft one in that which took many by surprise. The delegation members stated they were on a private visit – all could not have been tutored or bribed, could they?
Did the Centre fund the EU delegation visit? Most likely yes through our mission in Brussels or through Madi’s NGO or maybe through the India Foundation that organizes interactions with Indian Diaspora during foreign visits of PM Modi. Whatever economic constraints within the country, India has never ever had dearth of money for such type of activities. In mid 1990’s during Congressrulr, a delegation of 15 Indian MPs visited Japan and South Korea over a period of 14 days on a mission if you please “to check the use of Hindi” in our embassies at Tokyo and Seoul – all on government expense including travel, stay and lodging, sightseeing, shopping, gifts, you name it.
A nonentity like Kanshi Ram (Mayawati’s Mentor) was on medical tourism same time on government expense getting his heart bypass in Tokyo. Not those such activities did not continue to happen through the years, even today.
The EU delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi and visited J&K on October 29 where they interacted with the administration and locals; briefed by the Srinagar-based Corps Commander, interacted with members of the Janata Dal-United and the BJP, representatives of panchayats and sarpanches from the Valley, as also some of the newly-elected Block Development Commission members. They also took a boat ride in the Dal Lake. Few delegation members did not visit J&K possibly because of fear of violence although it was portrayed that they wanted free movement in the Valley; which wasn’t permitted due to security concerns.
After the tour ended with a boat ride in Dal Lake, one of the EU MPs said, “We, the international delegation, fully support India in its efforts for lasting peace and end of terror… We thank the Indian government and the local administration for their warm hospitality. We are Indian citizens and we want to be Indian like all other Indian citizens… we want to have development like other parts of the country, locals told us.” After visiting J&K, the European MEPs delegation said it “fully supports India in its efforts for lasting peace and end of terror”. They also said that they were not in Kashmir to interfere in India’s politics. The MEPs said politics is an internal issue but terror is a universal problem. One of the MEPs did say that the Centre must allow leaders from the opposition in the country to visit Kashmir as well.
A united opposition of the Congress, PDP, and NC, as also BSP and Shiv Sena criticized the Centre for permitting the EU delegation to visit J&K. Main issues raised by them were: first, the visit has internationalized the Kashmir issue; second, the delegation comprised of known right and far-right MPs who had already supported India’s decision on abrogation of Article 370; third, it was a “guided tour” since situation in the Valley has deteriorated with block-level elections boycotted by mainstream political parties in J&K and even with relaxed curbs perceptions have worsened; fourth, since US is calling for “rapid action — lifting of restrictions and the release of those detained” in Kashmir, the EU delegation was orchestrated as a counter; fifth, if Centre wants to publicize normalcy, it should first ensure a degree of it and allow own politicians and others to visit the Valley, and that even BJP MP Subramnian Swamt termed the EU delegation visit “perversion of our national policy”. These issues need scrutiny and are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.
Those alleging the EU delegation visit has “internationalized J&K” need to consider what further internationalization of Kashmir is possible after China knocked on the UNSC door for a closed door meeting and US President Donald Trump periodically offers mediation? The issue of internationalization is irrelevant with global leaders accepting Kashmir is a bilateral India-Pakistan issue and India reiterating the only part needing discussion is Pakistan occupied J&K (PoJK). None in the opposition have refuted these facts but those nurturing such notion should know that in 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah had sent Khurshid Hasan Khurshid, his private secretary with a letter to Maharaja of J&K saying that “he (Maharaja) is a sovereign that he alone has power to give accession; that he need not care about Sheikh Abdullah or National Conference…” That the Maharaja formally acceded to India is history.
That the MEPs delegation comprised known right and far-right MPs who had already supported India’s decision on abrogation of Article 370 is different from visiting J&K physically. As to demands by the US (global policeman), the Trump administration has its own agenda, especially in view forthcoming presidential elections. America needs to look at its own human rights record – even separating small children from their parents on plea of illegal immigration. Besides, did Niki Hailey not lambast the UN Human Rights Council in May 2018 for “double standards” and did Jorge Valero, the UN-Geneva ambassador Venezuela not respond that the US had “no moral authority” to lecture on human rights?
Boycott of block-level elections in J&K by mainstream political parties in J&K was with nefarious motives; these parties never even empowered the panchayats because of own vested interests. The EU delegation meeting members of panchayats and newly elected block members would have got the feel of ground situation. That Kashmiris want development and empowerment at ground level is borne by the fact that 98% voters turned out for the block-level elections despite terrorist threats.
The “guided tour” was essential. Surely targeting MEPs was unacceptable, as Pakistan-supported terror groups would have loved to kill some. The term ‘normalcy” must be understood in terms of what is going to be the ‘new normal’ in the Valley for considerable period of time. Decades of free run of radicalization backed to the hilt by Pakistan and some J&K politicians as well, has created a situation where terrorists, who have the initiative, strike when curbs are eased. Imran Khan’s open calls for jihad in Kashmir. It will take time to liquidate their support base. The EU delegation visit to J&K was more to give them the feel of Pakistan’s terrorism in the Valley, not proof of normalcy.
The Centre needs to state the ‘new normal, in the Valley in clear terms instead of giving statements like 90% curbs have been removed and normalcy will be restored soon, especially with terrorist changing tactics to kill non-Kashmiris. Articulation of actual ground position will find public support. Surely, the public doesn’t expect the government to deal with the radicalized lot akin to Sri Lanka massacring the LTTE with families and local population in the area as quick solution to end the insurgency. As for detained politicians and separatists in J&K, earlier they are investigated and prosecuted where required, the better. Alternative young political leadership must be given time to come up. Rushing into reviving the political process under pressure would be counterproductive unless government wants instability to fester. It is pathetic that for the second time, the Supreme Court has rejected a plea for investigations in the ethnic cleansing of Kashmiri Pundits in J&K. It indicates the degree to which the system in our country has degenerated.
Finally, lack of opposition in any country is bad. It results in the government surrounded by a coterie that debars rulers from gauging the ground waves. This needs little elaboration in the prevailing environment notwithstanding rhetoric. Unfortunately, the opposition ever hungry for power, continues to cry over spilled milk, even trying to lap it up of the floor. They would do well to read up on the book ‘Who Moved My Cheese’ by Dr. Spencer Johnson rather than sniffing the cheese gone stale.