24/09/2020

Diplomats are spending most of their time trying to keep out negative references to India

The European Union Parliaments discussion recently on Indias Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA, is more proof of concern, particularly in the West, over the possible repercussions of the law and the protests across India. Parliamentarians in the U.K. and U.S. Congressmen, including Democratic presidential contenders, have asked India to reconsider the law and to engage with the protesters. The EU parliamentarians went a step further: putting out six different and extremely critical resolutions, including one that spoke of the possible risk by the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens, of creating the largest statelessness crisis in the world. A sixth less critical resolution, but which worried about the brutal crackdown on protesters, was dropped. After Indias intense diplomatic outreach, the parliamentarians agreed to put off voting on the resolution until after External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar and Prime Minister Modi visit Brussels; according to the EU member requesting the postponement, India will address Europes concerns. The government has called this a diplomatic victory, blaming Pakistan and also a British MEP with Pakistan occupied Kashmir origins for strenuous efforts to attack India in the EU Parliament. The hope is that with the U.K. scheduled to leave the EU on January 31, interest in the anti-CAA resolutions will wane. Finally, the government has held that the CAA is Indias internal law.
While the government is right about Indias sovereign right, it would be deluding itself if it thinks any of these explanations are passing muster with the EU parliamentarians. The government diluted its own case against foreign interference when it facilitated a visit by EU MEPs to Srinagar last year, when even Indian MPs were not allowed to visit. By engaging the EU MEPs to avoid a vote in the EU Parliament this week, and offering to explain the reasons behind CAA, the government is slipping up further. New Delhi must also consider the impact of its repeated reference to Pakistan as the sole mover of any motion against it at world legislatures and fora. It seems a stretch that Pakistan, which is itself on international notice for terrorism and attacks on minorities, can bring such weight to bear. In the EU Parliament, 626 MEPs of the total 751 were members of the groups that originally drafted the six resolutions, and it seems unlikely that Islamabad could have achieved such a majority. Above all, the government must reflect on the cumulative toll on its diplomatic heft following international alarm over the CAA, plans for an NRC and the dilution of Article 370. Instead of pushing a positive agenda for India or handling global challenges, Indian diplomats seem to be overwhelmed keeping out any negative references to India at official fora.