Dutch PM Mark Rutte urged to take up Hindu extremism in talks with PM Modi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the PM of the Netherlands, Mark Rutte, during the Indian leader’s visit to the European country in June last year (file photo)

The Netherlands’ leader will be on a two-day visit to India from Thursday

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has been asked to take up with Prime Minister Narendra Modi increasing attacks on minorities and Dalits by Hindu extremist groups during the Netherlands’ leader two-day visit to India beginning Thursday.

“I sincerely hope that the trade delegation of the Netherlands will address the human rights situation in India especially the vulnerable situation of the Dalits, religious minorities and the child labour as well as the international funding to NGOs,” a government MP, Joël Voordewind, told National Herald from the Netherlands.

Rutte is expected to meet PM Modi on Thursday, following which the two leaders will deliver a joint statement. With four cabinet ministers, 15 CEOs and 220 delegates, Rutte will be accompanied by the largest ever trade delegation to accompany a visiting Dutch PM to India.

A parliamentarian from Christian Union party, a junior coalition partner in the government, Voordewind had last year in June urged PM Rutte in Parliament to question Modi on increasing Hindu extremist violence in India under his rule during the Indian PM’s visit to the Netherlands at the time.

In response to the six parliamentary questions posed by Voordewind to Rutte, the Dutch PM had said in a written reply that increasing human rights’ violations in India, especially those concerning Dalits, Muslims and other minorities, featured in one-on-one discussions between the two leaders.

Gerard Oonk, who manages the India Committee of the Netherlands, an advocacy group working in the field of human rights, told NH that it was “important for the Netherlands that the Indian government protects the rights and lives of its citizens without religious or casteist discrimination.”

Oonk had last year raised concerns over the Indian government’s crackdown on foreign funding to nonprofits, saying that the Modi government was “silently” supporting Hindu extremism and marginalisation of Dalits and minorities had “increased significantly” since 2014.

Human rights, bracketed with trade issues, are believed to be a major sticking point in the negotiations for the India-EU free trade deal, which have been ongoing since 2007. Commitment to human rights has found repeated mentions in the joint statements between India and EU

He said that he had been denied an Indian visa for the last 15 years, ever since he started to work on the issue of Dalit empowerment. “Other NGOs, especially when they work on human rights, also increasingly have a lot of problems getting visas,” said Oonk.

Human rights, bracketed with trade issues, are believed to be a major sticking point in the negotiations for the India-EU free trade deal, which have been ongoing since 2007. Commitment to human rights has found repeated mentions in the joint statements between India and EU, last time at the end of the 14th India-EU summit in October 2017.

In 2012, the European Parliament passed a resolution, as part of free trade negotiations with India, that contained several non-trade issues, including human rights.

Oonk said that he hoped the issue of deteriorating human rights in India could be addressed through the European Union, to avoid “bilateral retaliations” from the side of the Netherlands.

While the EU was India’s largest trading partner in 2016, India was the bloc’s ninth-largest trading partner in 2017. The bilateral trade between the two sides stood at approximately $135 billion. The Netherlands, host to one of the world’s busiest ports in Rotterdam, was an entry point to 20% of India’s exports to Europe in 2016.

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