The obvious question that arises over the visit of European Union MPs to Kashmir is whether allowing such a guided tour amounts to internationalising the issue. It’s a valid question because India’s consistent stand has been that Kashmir is an internal matter and leaders from foreign countries were never allowed to visit the Valley during the troubled times for an assessment of the ground situation. It must be pointed out that the NDA government had refused permission to the opposition MPs to visit Kashmir and also rejected requests by foreign journalists to cover the situation in the State, which is in the grip of a total lockdown since August 5. The decision to allow the delegation of European parliamentarians may have been guided by the need to counter a concocted western propaganda on Kashmir but the timing of the visit and the manner in which it was orchestrated have muddied the diplomatic waters and sent a wrong signal that the entire exercise was stage-managed. What caused further discomfort in political circles was that an overwhelming majority of the 27 parliamentarians belong to the right-wing parties widely believed to be anti-immigrant and conservative in their worldview. The delegation includes six French MPs from former presidential candidate Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, four British MPs from the Brexit Party and six Polish MPs from the ruling far-right party. Expectedly, during their post-visit media interaction, they came out in support of India’s stand on the revocation of special status to Jammu & Kashmir saying it was an internal matter and underlined the need for a joint global fight against the menace of terrorism.
The role played by an obscure NGO in facilitating the parliamentarians’ visit has also raised eyebrows in political and diplomatic circles, giving credence to the argument that it was an elaborate PR show for the Modi government. Unlike in the past when there was bipartisan support for India on Kashmir, there is now growing criticism from liberals who are questioning India on the human rights issue. Allowing a select group of European MPs to visit the Valley might signal that only the far-right parties are in favour of India’s position on Kashmir. Already, the US members of Congress and EU nations have been expressing concern over the continuing siege of Kashmir, including absence of communication links and the plight of the common people. Though New Delhi has, by and large, succeeded in countering the vicious propaganda of Pakistan on the revocation of Article 370 and getting the international community on board, it now needs to engage with the liberal voices in the western nations more substantially and convince them of its position. The next step should be to allow opposition parties to visit the Valley.