European parliamentary delegation visit causes more harm than good

The objective was to get from these foreign MPs a certificate that everything was normal in Kashmir. But by allowing these gentlemen to visit Kashmir, Modi govt has exposed itself to public criticism

PM Modi the EU MP delegation in New Delhi.
PM Modi the EU MP delegation in New Delhi.
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Barun Das Gupta/IPA

Erle Stanley Gardner could well have written another Perry Mason thriller with the title: “The Mystery of the European Union Parliamentary Delegation” visiting Kashmir. There is a lot of mystery about the status of the delegation, who invited them, who fixed their meeting with the Prime Minister, who paid for their travel and stay expenses and how the members of the delegation were selected and by whom.

One thing is certain. They neither represent the European Union nor the governments of their countries. Their status and credibility are being widely questioned even in Europe.

The very first question is about their political leaning. Of the 27 MPs selected, 22 belong to far Right-Wing Parties. Only one representative, that from Spain, Hermann Tertsch, belonged to the Communist Party, but he voluntarily dropped out of the delegation.

Another member who expressed his desire to meet and talk to the Kashmiri people found his invitation withdrawn immediately.

There are certain undeniable facts. The members of the delegation could come to India because they were issued visas by the Indian embassies of the countries concerned. And this could not have been done without the clearance of the External Affairs Ministry.

So, it was a visit cleared by the Union Government, whatever the status of the members of the delegation. Second, they did meet the Prime Minister. The little known lady, Madi Sharma, who extended the invitation, promised their meeting with the PM. And she delivered on her promise. How she could promise on behalf of the PM is a question that needs to be answered.

This delegation of EU MPs was allowed to visit Kashmir when Indian law-makers have been consistently refused permission. Obviously, the Government has more trust in European MPs than the Indian law-makers elected by the people of India.

The stand of the Government has all along been that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan and there is no scope for any foreign government or foreign organization to have a finger in the Kashmir pie.

How come then that the European Union delegation was allowed to visit Kashmir and “assess” ground realities for themselves? What “assessment” they made of the situation is not known.

But it has been widely reported that during their visit, the people of Srinangar did not come out during the two hour curfew relaxation period. They kept indoors. All shops and establishments remained closed. The roads were deserted.

Names of two other organizations have cropped up in connection with the visit. One is the Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT) and the other is the International Institute of Non-aligned Studies.

WESTT is known for its proximity to the European Union. The last name will raise many eyebrows because the Modi Government has bidden goodbye to the Non-aligned Movement long ago.

Studying the entire chain of events, there is little doubt that the move to bring the so-called EU delegation to India and Kashmir was sponsored by the Government of India behind the fig leaf of certain non-official individuals and organizations.

The objective was to get from these foreign MPs a certificate that everything was normal in Kashmir. The abrogation of articles 370 and 35A was necessary to combat terrorism. And whatever measures the government had taken in Kashmir was a response to the terrorism sponsored by Pakistan. In fact some of the MPs have been heard to refer to Pakistan-sponsored terrorism.

The EU delegation members could meet only those Kashmiris who were cleared by the government. They could not meet and ascertain the views of the three former Chief Ministers in detention – Farooq Abdulllah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.

They could not interact with a cross-section of the people and know from them how they have been spending their days since August 5 – with mobile phone facilities withdrawn, Internet connection cut off, with an undeclared curfew enveloping the Valley and people who dared come out of their homes after sundown having to face the wrath of the security forces.

Did they know that in “normal” Kashmir, the main markets have remained closed ever since August 5? Shops open only for a short period in the morning and evening to enable people to buy the essentials. Public transport is nowhere to be seen.

Rows of shuttered shops greet anyone passing along Srinagar streets. The business community has complained they have suffered a huge loss of over Rs. 10,000 crores since August 5.

The Prime Minister and the Home Minister are expecting that with the abrogation of the two Articles of the Constitution, investment will flow into Kashmir like flood waters. In the situation prevailing in the Kashmir Valley today, will any investor take the risk of investing in Kashmir?

If the purpose of the whole exercise was a propaganda stunt of the government, it has failed. And by allowing these European gentlemen to visit Kashmir, the Modi government has exposed itself to public criticism. It has much to answer for – to the Parliament and the people.

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