'Biggest diplomatic blunder' say critics of Centre's invitation to EU MPs; India's stand that Kashmir is internal matter could be compromised

  • Another contention is that the Centre, which had maintained amid international criticism that the issue was India's internal matter, laid out a 'red carpet' for a 'third party' in Kashmir and has taken huge steps backwards in asserting its stand to countries like Pakistan that the 5 August decision is not open to discussion on any global fora

  • While members of the delegation said that decisions over Article 370 were India's internal matter and that they were concerned with the 'terrorism that is a global menace', critics were not convinced

Two major debates have emerged from the Centre's decision to invite a delegation of European Union parliamentarians to Jammu and Kashmir, with the purpose of having them assess the situation on-ground after the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution, which accorded a certain degree of autonomy to the restive region.

The group comprising 23 MPs of European Parliament was the first foreign delegation that was given access to Kashmir after the government imposed restrictions on movement and communications in the state after the constitutional provision was abrogated on 5 August. The Lok Sabha also passed a law splitting the state into two Union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — effective from 31 October.

Opposition politicians, political analysts, and activists are questioning the Narendra Modi-led government over its permission to foreign politicians to travel to Jammu and Kashmir while "banning" Members of the Parliament of India some of whom "had to go to the Supreme court" to seek access to travel to the region, and with conditions.

Another contention is that the Centre, which had maintained amid international criticism that the abrogation of Article 370 was India's internal matter, laid out a "red carpet" for a "third party" in Kashmir and has taken huge steps backwards in asserting its stand to countries like Pakistan that the 5 August decision is not open to discussion on any global fora.

While members of the delegation said that decisions over Article 370 were India's internal matter and that they were concerned with the "terrorism that is a global menace", critics were not convinced.

The delegation, many of whom are from extreme-right or right-wing parties, are said to be "Islamophobic" and supporters of "fascist" and "anti-migrant" views, was briefed by senior security officials on the situation in the Valley and other parts of Jammu and Kashmir and also met delegations of the general public. The delegation was also briefed by officials of security forces like the Indian Army about "Pakistan's role in fuelling terrorism in the Kashmir Valley and the role of Pakistani Army in pushing terrorists into India," ANI reported.

On Tuesday, as the EU MPs travelled to Kashmir, there was a complete shutdown in Srinagar and at least four people were injured in numerous clashes between protesters and security forces in various parts of the Valley. People put up blockades in at least five different places in the city, including downtown Srinagar and 90 Feet Road.

Shops and business establishments were closed and vehicles were off the roads due to the clashes. Vendors, who had been setting up their stall over the past weeks, did not turn up on Tuesday.

The government's move was met with scathing criticism from Opposition parties like the Congress, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), National Conference (NC), and the Communist Party of India (CPI).

Terming the EU MPs’ visit a “curated sanitised picnic to Kashmir”, Iltija Mufti, former chief minister Mehbooba’s daughter tweeted from the PDP leader’s official Twitter account and noted how the Valley was in a shutdown mode on Tuesday. She also questioned whether the government expected “nine million oppressed Kashmiris to lay out a red carpet for them”.

The NC, led by former chief ministers Farooq and Omar Abdullah, also labelled the visit as a “PR exercise”. In a statement that termed the EU lawmakers' Kashmir a "PR exercise", the party added that most of the members in the delegation share a "particular ideology".

Mehbooba, Farooq, and Omar are among the local leaders who have been put under preventive detention since 5 August.

Pakistan raises objections on international platforms

Pakistan, India's neighbour across the tense Line of Control, has staked claim over the disputed Kashmir Valley since the countries gained Independence in 1947. After the abrogation of Article 370, when Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan promised to raise the issue "at every level", India reacted strongly terming the issue an "internal matter".

Hitting out at Imran Khan’s “provocative and irresponsible statements” at the United Nations General Assembly in September, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the Pakistani prime minister does not know how to conduct relationships.

“This is not the first time that such statements have come from across the border. Pakistan and it leaders do not behave like neighbouring countries should. But the most serious issue is the Pakistani prime minister’s call for jihad against India,” Raveesh said.

Reiterating that the Kashmir issue is an internal matter, Raveesh also expressed regret over the statements made by Turkey and Malaysia at the UNGA. “We call upon the Turkey government to get a proper understanding of the situation on the ground before they make any further statements on this issue. It is a matter which is completely internal to India,” he said.

The bottomline being: India not even once entertained the "belligerent" neighbour's objections against the decision.

Donald Trump says ready to mediate on Kashmir

In addition to Pakistan, India has also asserted Kashmir being an internal matter to US president Donald Trump. Trump has offered to mediate between India and Pakistan on the long-standing dispute at least twice, and India has been firm and unwavering in its reply: "We will not tolerate any kind of interference in Kashmir."

BJP president Amit Shah in October stated that Modi had told Trump that Kashmir is an internal matter of India and "he need not interfere in it".

Addressing an election rally ahead of the Maharashtra Assembly election, Shah had said, "This has been our consistent stand for years that we will not tolerate any kind of interference in Kashmir. If any country tried to speak on Kashmir, we said that it is our internal matter, be it American president or anyone else. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said clearly that Kashmir is our internal matter and you need not interfere."

Union Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, at an event in Mumbai earlier in October, also said, "Article 370 and Jammu and Kashmir is an internal matter. Whatever decision is to be taken on it, India will decide."

'Biggest diplomatic blunder'

The EU MPs' visit to Kashmir marks a shift in the stand India has been maintaining over the last few months, and risks compromising its policy of Kashmir being an internal matter.

The Congress on Wednesday termed the EU MPs visit to Kashmir the "biggest diplomatic blunder" in India's history and said the government had deliberately internationalised the issue. Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said that the BJP government "continues to humiliate India on a global scale" by allowing internationalisation of the Kashmir issue in violation of the time-tested policy that it is India's internal matter.

"The truth is that this is the biggest diplomatic blunder in India's history. The Modi government has deliberately internationalised the Kashmir issue, violating our time-tested policy of Kashmir being an internal matter' of India," he said to reporters.

Though Pakistan's objections over Kashmir don't hold much water on the international platform due to its own "diminished credibility" as it's facing a possible blacklisting from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) over its failure to curb cross-border terrorism, the many loopholes in India's invitation to EU MPs could affect its support base when it comes to Kashmir.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Oct 31, 2019 00:05:22 IST