Modi Government’s penchant for throwing surprises is well known. The decision to scrap Article 370 on 5th Aug 2019 came at a moment when it was least expected. Similar to demonetization or the air & land strikes on Pakistan, the Govt maintained complete secrecy over its intentions to remove Art 370, while people & media could do was just speculate. And just when the public was beginning to come to terms with the notion that all was well, the Modi Govt decides to send a team of European Union parliamentarians on a goodwill visit to the Kashmir valley.
One thing to be sure is that the move has ruffled many feathers in the political spectrum. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was quick to point out that something was very wrong in EU members visiting the valley when their own opposition leaders were sent back on the pretext that they could disturb the peace and harmony of the region.
Even Shiv Sena, an ally of BJP and a partner in the ruling dispensation at the centre has questioned the logic behind the move.
However, the Shiv Sena’s criticism can be taken as a pressure tactic to negotiate a better deal in the formation of the Maharashtra Govt after the recently concluded state elections. Nevertheless, the decision to send EU parliamentarians to Kashmir valley is going to be difficult for the Govt to explain. Especially when terrorists killed five migrant workers from West Bengal in a dastardly attack in Kulgam yesterday, casting doubt over the prevailing situation in the valley.
To understand the reasons behind this move we should first recollect a few recent developments that took place in the World of geopolitics. The first was Pakistan raising the Kashmir issue in the United Nations assembly. Not that Pakistan’s Govt did anything new, but the statements of Pak PM Imran Khan were echoed by Turkey and Malaysia were quite a surprise. Then we saw the US Congress conducting a hearing on Human Rights issues in South Asia, which was entirely focussed on Kashmir.
And if that was not enough we saw Pak supported public protests in London highlighting the so-called HR violations in Kashmir.
These incidents forced the Modi Govt to spring into action and give a strong rebuttal on the international level. It is to be noted that most of the EU members making the visit are from the right-wing political parties of Europe. Hence they share Modi Govt’s sensibilities on Islamic terrorism and are themselves been quite vocal on the immigrant’s issue in Europe. Considering the fact here that European NATO members do not support the Turkish invasion of Syria, the support of these EU members to the Indian position on Kashmir counterbalances Turkey’s support to Pakistan. As far as US Congressional hearing is concerned, it too diverges with the position Trump has taken publically. If the US considers India to be a major ally, the US administration should dissuade its establishment from expressing views that compromise its own President’s position. Indian Govt has largely remained silent to the US hearings, which shows the Govt isn’t keen on risking a relationship with Trump over this.
However, by declaring the visit to be in personal capacity the Govt not only got an escape route( in case things get worse) but also separated the global and local audience. This simply shows that the target audience of this decision was outside India. Because a personal visit does not change Govt’s official policy on the Kashmir issue that it is a bilateral one, there is nothing the opposition should worry about.
Even after playing so safe, it remains to be seen, how the politics will be played out. Because the opposition parties will not let go of this godsend opportunity to pin down the Govt. Modi Govt still has to answer the question that if our own elected leaders cannot visit the Kashmir valley, how come the Europeans come in so easy. Maybe the Govt could have staged a few protests in the UK on the Human Rights violations in Balochistan using MEA support rather than risking so much political capital. But then Modi is known to do the unexpected. Let’s wait n watch…!!!