Even as the three former chief ministers continue to be incarcerated and thousand others jailed for more than 80 days, Modi government has rolled out a red carpet welcome to the European lawmakers to mobilise global opinion on Kashmir.
In order to neutralise any criticism of its decision on the scrapping of Article 370 that granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir, India has rolled out a red carpet welcome to 27 members of the European Parliament belonging to nine countries. 22 of the 27 member of European Parliament (MEPs) are right wing politicians.
They include Nathan Gill, David Richard Bull, Alexandra Philips and James Wells (Brexit Party, right wing) and Bill Newton Dunn (Liberal democrats) from UK, Tom Vandendriessche (Identity and Democracy Group)-Belgium, Bernhard Zimniok , Lars Partick Berg (Alternative für Deutschland, RW) and Slovakia Peter Pollak (Christian Democrats, conservative)- Germany, Gianna Gancia, Silvia Sardone (right-wing, anti-immigration), Guiseppe Ferrandino (Democratic Party) Fulvio Martusciello (Forza Italia, centre-right)-Italy and Tomas Zdechobsky (Christian Democrats, conservative)-Czech Republic.
There were six MPs from both France and Poland each. They were Thierry Mariani (Republicans, centre right) while others were Julie Lechantex, Virginie Joron, France Jamet and Nicholas Bay (Rassemblement National, right wing) from France while those from Poland were Bogdan Rzonca, Elzbieta Rafalska, Joana Kopcinska, Grzegorz Tobiszowski, Ryszard Czarnecki (justice and law, centre right) and Kosma Zlotowski (Prawo i Sprawiedliwość, justice and law, centre right). From Spain it was Hermann Tertsch (Communist Party).
The significance the visit holds is that it is the first ever foreign delegation being allowed to the state since the special status scrapped on August 5. Secondly politicians, foreign journalists based in India, and diplomats here have been denied permission.
Ahead of their visit to the valley Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed the delegation at his official residence in the national capital. Without naming any country, Modi said terrorism and radicalisation particularly threaten democratic societies like India and Europe.
“Close international cooperation is essential to fight terrorism. Urgent action must be taken against all those who support or sponsor terrorism or support such activities and organisations or use terrorism as a state policy. There should be zero tolerance for terrorism,” he told the 27 MPs. According to sources National Security Advisor Ajit Doval also briefed the EU lawmakers on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and terrorism emanating from across the border.
On India’s relations with the EU, the prime minister said New Delhi attaches the highest importance to its relations with the EU. “Our strategic partnership is even more important in today’s testing times,” he said adding early conclusion of a fair and balanced Broad-based Trade and Investment Agreement (BTIA) is a priority for his government.
However, the invitation to members of European Parliament received flak from across political spectrum and former diplomats. They took to social media platform to blast the government.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is under detention and whose Twitter account is updated by Iltija her daughter, tweeted: “If scrapping Article 370 integrated J&K into India, why is Shri Rahul Gandhi barred from visiting Kashmir? Instead, a group of far right & fascist leanings EU MPs is allowed by GOI. Your ticket to Kashmir is possible only if you’re a fascist with a visceral hatred for Muslims.”
It was not just the Opposition that was raising questions about the MEPs’ visit. The BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP, Subramanian Swamy, too, objected to it.
“I am surprised that the MEA has arranged for European Union MPs, in their private capacity (Not EU’s official delegation), to visit Kashmir area of J&K. This is a perversion of our national policy. I urge the government to cancel this visit because it is immoral,” he tweeted.
Former Indian ambassador to Iran Krishan Chander Singh warned how the move would be detrimental. He tweeted, “If some, hopefully not most, European MEPs, as is emerging, are from fascist, anti-immigrant & Islamophobic parties, then the BJP and the government may have erred seriously in their unseemly hurry to get approval of westerners, of whatever ilk. It shall be counter-productive abroad.”
During a special debate of the plenary of the European Parliament last month European parliamentarians Ryszard Czarnecki and Fulvio Martusciello have backed India on the Kashmir issue by describing it a great democracy and slammed Pakistan for harbouring terrorists. Both of them are part of the visiting delegation.
UN Special Rapporteurs at the Human Rights Council have also criticised New Delhi for denying them to visit the region.
Even the visiting Members of European Parliament realise well what the Modi government wants to project its stand and the accompany optics. Thierry Mariani, a European MP for France’s far-right National Rally, told AFP “We are going to see the situation in Kashmir, at least what they want to show us”. That sums up the games for now!