Caving in on visa sends bad signal

The United States and major European countries have ignored such pleas regarding the Uyghur dissident.

Last week the Narendra Modi government gave an electronic visa to attend a conference with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala to Dolkun Isa, a leader of the World Uyghur Congress. Mr Isa is a permanent resident of Germany. But on Tuesday the visa was withdrawn after Beijing indicated it was far from pleased with this development. The Uyghur leader had to leave his home in East Turkestan or Xinjiang, as China has made that region known. Beijing deems Mr Isa to be a “terrorist” but the latter protests against such a tag, and has said in interviews that his is the way of non-violent resistance against the Chinese authorities for swallowing up his land.

It had been widely assumed — and the government, if anything, encouraged the belief — that giving the visa to Mr Isa was a reaction to Beijing using its clout in the UN Security Council to prevent the placing of the Pakistani terrorist mastermind, Masood Azhar, on the UN list of proscribed individuals at India’s initiative. India believes the Jaish-e-Mohammed leader is involved in the attack on the Pathankot airbase in January.

In an official statement, directed obviously at New Delhi, Beijing just had to say that Mr Isa was on a “red corner” list of Interpol and all concerned should take note of this — meaning they had to arrest him if they came by him — and India revoked the visa. The United States and major European countries have ignored such pleas regarding the Uyghur dissident.

The government seems to be red-faced and is coming up with a variety of implausible explanations for this turn of events. Evidently it had not thought things through, busy as it seemed to be in trying to create the impression that it was seeking to stand up to China, playing the reciprocity card in the context of Beijing saving Masood Azhar from UN action. It appears the external affairs ministry was kept on the sidelines in the whole affair of issuance of the visa to Mr Isa.

It may also be pertinent to ask why an American NGO was cleared by New Delhi to hold a conference in India of several leading international dissidents. Were the implications of this properly examined? If the government thought it was duty-bound to hold up its credentials as a democracy in this fashion, then the sudden withdrawal of the visa, clearly on flimsy grounds, cannot be a great advertisement for this country. Big and small countries in our region are likely to draw their own conclusions from this caving in. The resultant whittling of diplomatic heft could affect us more widely. Indians too could now perceive themselves as being smaller and mousier.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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