PM Narendra Modi | File Photo | ANI
Prime Minister Narendra Modi | File Photo | ANI
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Where is Saint Vincent and the Grenadines? This is not a trick NatGeo quiz question at the end of which you get a prize to fly to the Anglo-Caribbean island, all expenses paid.

Instead, ask yourself why Prime Minister Narendra Modi was seen smiling cheerily at the aforesaid nation’s Prime Minister, Ralph Gonsalves, at a meeting of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) that took place in Noida Monday.

There are several answers, of course. First, India has taken over as chair of the Convention of Parties (CoP) of the UNCCD and PM Modi wanted to, again, put India on the world map. Second, any such international conference gives the PM the chance to talk about what he’s achieved in India so far (tree and forest cover enhanced by 0.8 million hectares since he came to power) and what he promises to do (restore 26 million hectares of degraded land by 2030).

Third, with 8,000 participants present worldwide during the meeting, Modi knows he has the chance to mount a subliminal charm offensive: Forget Kashmir clampdown and Assam’s 19 lakh people excluded from NRC, see what else India is willing to do for you in the long run.


Also read: UN rights chief asks India to ease Kashmir lockdown, raises NRC list controversy


Under the radar

Michelle Bachelet, UN Human Rights Commissioner in Geneva, was clearly not listening. Her opening statement at the 42nd session of the Human Rights Council Monday night included both human rights violations in Kashmir as well as the NRC exclusions, which she said had caused “great uncertainty and anxiety.”

Notice that Bachelet was, actually, quite moderate in her statement – and Delhi seems prepared to live with it, notwithstanding some proforma noises it makes. In any case, the abrogation of Article 370 is a done-and-dusted deal. The Modi government isn’t going back on what it did one month ago.

Notice, too, that the suave diplomat Ajay Bisaria, who probably learnt how Soviet diplomats played off their diplomatic enemies during the Cold War with his mother’s milk and was most recently India’s high commissioner to Pakistan until he was expelled some weeks ago, has been taking in the Geneva air for the last fortnight or so since the G7 meeting in Biarritz, France.

Of course, Bisaria has been meeting all the small, medium and big players in the Human Rights Council – every vote counts. His message is Delhi’s message, something that National Security Adviser Ajit Doval recently told Indian and foreign journalists – including The New York Times, which has been quite critical of the clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir.

It is certainly terrible that there is a communications lockdown in Jammu & Kashmir, and political leaders have been detained. But better a lockdown than more deaths in the Valley, they say.

Moreover, at the risk of introducing unsaid humour in the serious subject of civil liberties, internet consumption isn’t a fundamental right yet, and certainly not written in the Constitution.

The fact of the matter is that the Modi government is watching, very, very carefully, on an hourly basis, the goings-on in Kashmir. It is aware that the curtailment of civil liberties – putting sitting MPs like Farooq Abdullah as well as former chief ministers like Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah, as well as scores of other political leaders under house arrest – cannot be acceptable in any civilised democracy, especially not the world’s largest.


Also read: Human rights activists angry with Gates Foundation award to ‘butcher of Gujarat’ Modi


Supine opposition at home

But who is going to speak up against the Modi government? Who has the courage to separate the issues involved in the abrogation of Article 370 and those around the infringement of fundamental rights? Not one person in the main opposition Congress, which is all at sea between its interim president Sonia Gandhi, its former president Rahul Gandhi and several other satraps both old and new.

(Forget about Kashmir and the NRC, the Congress has no time to protest the incarceration of its own leader, P. Chidambaram.)

A supine opposition allows the Modi government to transfer a large part of the blame outside.


Also read: This is why PM Modi doesn’t really care about internationalisation of Kashmir issue


Angling for silence outside

There is absolutely no doubt that Pakistan is ready to stoke the fire inside the Kashmir Valley. This is manna from heaven for Pakistan. Imagine the opportunity to revive the agitation in Kashmir, like it did in the early 1990s, and convince its people that an insurrection is in order.

Can India afford trouble in Kashmir as well as in Assam? Even if the BJP gives citizenship to all Hindus on its NRC exclusion list through the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, Bangladesh is certainly not ready to take the remaining Muslims back.

Michelle Bachelet’s comments on the NRC seem to have come as a surprise to the Modi government – it was expecting to get a pasting on just Kashmir. Still, it will absorb the criticism for now, because all will depend on how things will unfold in the Kashmir Valley.

That’s why Modi is now angling for a meeting with President Donald Trump when he goes to the US later this month. Certainly, the PM will offer to buy some defence equipment as well as other heavy-duty stuff, in what seems like an attempt at buying America’s silence. In any case, Trump’s treatment of the Mexicans and their incarceration on the border are hardly the textbook treatment of human rights.

India will attempt to play off Bachelet with Trump as well as China’s Xi Jinping, who comes to Delhi-Varanasi next month – his own treatment of Uyghurs and Tibetans is for the world to see.

With foreign minister S. Jaishankar crisscrossing the world to explain how Kashmir is an internal matter, the home front is being forged in the fire of an ambitious diplomatic exercise.

Both in Kashmir and outside, the next few weeks will be crucial.

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7 Comments Share Your Views

7 COMMENTS

  1. Do journalists in our country need permission from the Modi bhakts what to write and how to write .Why don’t such people just leave the journalists alone and let them do their job. Whether the job is being done well or not will be decided by their readers and certainly not by these people.Thank god Ms Jyoti Malhotra is not in Srinagar but doing her job from the capital of this country..

  2. The 30-year veteran journalist-cum-editor, Jyoti Malhotra starts with a meaty hook, “India will attempt to play off UN Human Rights Commissioner Bachelet with Trump as well as China’s Xi Jinping, who visits India next month.”

    She fails to mention in subsequent paragraphs as to why India needs to play off UNHRC with Trump or Xi. Doesn’t the strategic affairs editor know that US pulled out of UNHRC under Trump administration last year calling the UN body “hypocritical and self-serving organization” and citing it for “chronic bias”. Trump does not want anything to do with any UN bodies. He will take offense even to be in the same sentence that mentions UNHRC Bachelet. Trump administration is currently in turbo mode kicking out illegal immigrants from its country. He would rather advice Modi to follow his immigration policy and kick out the 19 lakh illegal immigrants, who are competing for the same limited resources with the legal inhabitants of that small state. So, Why would he find an issues with NRC?

    Three times a year, the toothless UNHRC body passes non-binding resolutions and recommendations. It’s member list includes notorious violators, who are accused of very serious human rights violations, such as, Xi’s China that imprisoned a million Uyghurs in concentration camps; Pakistan, where thousands of its civilians have simply disappeared into thin air; Saudi Arabia that murdered and hacked its own citizen journalist in its own embassy and other stars, like Egypt, Venezuela and so on. CPC is already facing flak for Xinjiang and faces a massive political unrest in Hong Kong. So, why would Modi need to play off a commissioner of a toothless body with Trump and Xi, who really don’t give a damn about UNHRC? Is she so powerful that he needs the support and personal audiences of two world leaders to counter her moderate views or Is the click-bait sensational statement symptomatic of a genre of witless Indian journalists?

    She mentions, “the Congress has no time to protest the incarceration of its own leader, P. Chidambaram”. Did she even pause to consider that the travails of P. Chidambaram is of his own making. He enjoys recourse to Judicial relief, like all other accused in the Indian Judicial system. It’s got nothing to do with time, Congress doesn’t protest because they knew of P. Chidambaram’s corruption and did nothing to prevent it. It’s guilt that is making it Supine!

    She writes, “…the suave diplomat Ajay Bisaria, who probably learnt how Soviet diplomats played off their diplomatic enemies during the Cold War with his mother’s milk..”. Does this statement make any sense to anyone? What’s the context? What is his mother’s milk got to do with supposed suaveness of Ajay Bisaria. His suaveness wasn’t enough to prevent him from getting kicked out from his last posting. How does this statement adds to her assertion, “Supine opposition helps Modi ignore global human rights concerns on Kashmir & Assam” or the starting hook?

    She further writes,”..told Indian and foreign journalists – including The New York Times, which has been quite critical of the clampdown on civil liberties in Kashmir.” The New York Times has been regularly criticized for its anti-India bias in its coverage of the Kashmir issue (https://www.forbes.com/2009/07/21/new-york-times-india-clinton-climate-nuclear-opinions-contributors-sumit-ganguly.html#3a1df7621463). Even a United States lawmaker blasted its article as full of “blatant and unprofessional factual errors or omissions” and having a “haughty, condescending, arrogant and patronizing” tone (http://archive.indianexpress.com/news/indianamerican-lawmaker-blasts-nyt-for-antiindia-editorial/492140). In 2014, The New York Times engaged in racist stereotyping by publishing a cartoon showing a stereotypical Indian turban-wearing man with a cow knocking at the door of an “elite space club” in response to stellar accomplishments by the ISRO (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/the-new-york-times-publis_b_5903118). It’s Indophobic bias was apparent in its opposition to India’s entry into NSG group (https://thewire.in/media/there-is-nothing-surprising-about-the-new-york-times-editorial-on-india-and-the-nsg). It referred to Pulwama suicide bombing as an “explosion” (https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/nytimes-calls-pulwama-terror-attack-an-explosion-1475951-2019-03-12). The headline of the article read “In India’s Election Season, an Explosion Interrupts Modi’s Slump” before it was corrected under intense criticism. It promoted Orientalism by attacking the traditional Indian dress, sari as a “conspiracy by Hindu Nationalists” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/global-opinions/wp/2017/11/17/the-new-york-times-tried-to-explain-sari-fashion-and-became-the-laughingstock-of-india/).

    What’s author’s infatuation with a biased anti-Indian foreign media, like The New York Times? Is she on their payroll? Why is she singling out the New York Times? What’s so worthy about their opinion? The New York Times was, is and will be always critical of anything that is associated with Indians. Why would Indians be bothered about a snotty journal that does not respect their sentiments? Quoting the NY Times is like quoting Pakistan’s view as an impartial observer! It took me only a few clicks to find out about the inherent bias in The New York Times coverage. Jyoti Malhotra is a 30-year old veteran and an editor of National & Strategic Affairs to boot. What world is she living in? How can she be so ignorant?

    Towards the end, she reiterates her dreamy assertion that Bachelet has some kind of a super power. She sincerely believes that Modi needs to “angle” for an audience with the US president to somehow stave off and play off the mighty Bachelet utterances from bringing him and the whole country down. Then adds some more flowery nonsense, “the home front is being forged in the fire of an ambitious diplomatic exercise”.

    Is Jyoti Malhotra insane or Is she just another lazy writer? Don’t writers have an moral obligation to present an impartial commentary to its readers and a sense of work ethics towards her publisher, who is letting her write for it? Is her absurd writing typical of a malaise in Indian Journalism?

  3. What Ms. Malhotra clearly does not understand is that human rights concerns on Kashmir and Assam are absolutely baseless. As she herself points out Internet consumption is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution. Also, reports that Indian Army and paramilitary forces have been murdering hundreds/thousands in the Valley ever since the clampdown is patently false and misleading. This, at best, is Pakistani propaganda at work.
    Nothing has happened in Kashmir which can be passed off as a gross violation of human rights. Yes, it is under clampdown temporarily. With each passing day, restrictions are being lifted and normalcy is returning albeit slowly.
    Unfortunately, the Indian liberal/secular cabal is only too eager to parrot the lies and propaganda peddled by Pakistan regarding “genocide in Kashmir Valley” and thereby helps the cause of Jihadis.

    • The Right to Underwear is also not part of any Constitution – but depriving a population of this Right is tantamount to promoting barbarism…

    • So many things were not available on 26th January, 1950, including TV sets. The Constitution – like the religious scriptures – could not have been clairvoyant. Consider how successive enlightened judgments of the apex court have enlarged the meaning and scope of the Right to Life. Clean air and water, for example. 2. So much of the economy, starting with banking, is now transacted online. Who computes the cost to the economy of Kashmir when the Internet is switched off.

  4. Another senseless piece from incorrigible Jyoti. If Abdullahs and Muftis of Kashmir can undertake not to cause trouble in Kashmir and fight for their rights through strictly legal means, government will be too happy to release them immediately. As Jyoti herself acknowledges that there is no return to pre 5th August days, only recourse for these broken hearts is fight through either violence and terrorism or courts. Hence, if they are sure they are going to fight legally, let them give undertaking and be free to pursue their course of action in SC. Lets not blame Modi for current restrictions as his objective is to minimize violence and resulting deaths in Kashmir. As it is, 90 percent of J&K is free and the trouble is in usual places. On external side, Modi will do everything to put Pakistan under pressure. How can Jyoti find problems with Modi dealing with UN or other countries. Let us be clear- 1-Abolition of Art 370 has national approval. 2-Its external dimensions due to mischievous attempts by Pak are being tackled effectively Modi. 3-Normalcy of the conditions in the few districts in the valley will take time and there cannot be specific time limit for it. 4-And yes, internet is not yet a part of fundamental rights.

  5. It does seem a little ironic that a peripatetic Foreign Minister is required to convince the world that Kashmir is an internal matter. 2. Great nations have bargaining chips. Crown Prince MbS can travel to China and commend it for keeping itself safe from seditious Uighur Muslims. So September is all hands on deck for the diplomatic corps. Bandwidth that could have been used for finalising the FTA with the EU or settling the modalities for India to join the RCEP. 3. The question we need to ask ourselves is what is India’s destiny and what we are doing to get there. The world’s average GDP per capita is $ 11,600, a shade higher than China’s. India would need a $ 15 trillion economy to get there, much above the slightly unattainable $ 5 trillion.

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