File photo | US envoy to India Kenneth Juster and other diplomats on their arrival at the airport in Srinagar | PTI
File photo | US envoy to India Kenneth Juster and other diplomats on their arrival at the airport in Srinagar | PTI
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The Narendra Modi government has won a big diplomatic victory by persuading US ambassador Kenneth Juster to travel as part of a 15-member team of envoys to Jammu and Kashmir this week, even if its other good friend France hid behind the European Union decision not to go on the guided tour.

Significantly, the Brazilian ambassador to India, Andre Aranha Correa do Lago, didn’t travel to Srinagar although his name was on the list. Perhaps he cited his full schedule as an excuse; his president, Jair Bolsonaro is coming to Delhi this 26 January as chief guest at the Republic Day celebrations commemorating 70 years of the Constitution.

So, Juster was in the company of ambassadors from Niger (whose main opposition leader is in jail, from where he intends to run for the presidential election later this year), Togo (better known for ivory poaching) and Nigeria (where journalists say they are under attack for exposing the misdeeds of President Muhammadu Buhari).

Diplomats from Vietnam, Philippines and South Korea, allies of the US, also went. So did Norway. Actually, Norway could hardly refuse an invite by the Modi government, considering its former prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik had met separatist Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq in December 2018. It was left to Norwegian PM Erna Solberg to insist, when she came to Delhi last year, that her country would only mediate on Kashmir between India and Pakistan if asked.

Mirwaiz, under house arrest since the dilution of Article 370 on 5 August, had tweeted about his meeting with Bondevik:


Also read: Envoys in Kashmir: Is it just domestic optics or attempt to address global backlash?


Buying time

Certainly, the visit by ‘Juster & Others’ is an attempt by the Modi government to buy time from the world community. As the incarceration of three former chief ministers enters its sixth month, Delhi has been increasingly hard put to justify what it is that keeps them locked.

On Delhi’s part, there’s a certain delicious irony in taking representatives of the so-called free world, such as the US and Norway, to Kashmir. The US has held two critical hearings on Kashmir in the Congress, in response to which External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar cancelled a meeting with the US House of Representatives because legislator Pramila Jayapal had threatened to crash the meeting.

The guided tour to Kashmir is an extension of this muscularity: You want to see the situation in the Valley, you have to come with us. You won’t be allowed to go on your own. We will show you what you need to see.

Certainly, the Modi government has won this round. Whatever the US ambassador or his government feels and thinks after this, they will be hard put to explain why Juster allowed himself to be shepherded around in the company of men whose nations are hardly shining examples of democratic traditions.

Even if the US points out that Juster could have hardly refused an invite by the government, especially if the call came from a senior official. Fact is, the deed is done.


Also read: US Ambassador Kenneth Juster will be part of Modi govt’s J&K tour for foreign envoys today


Hum Bhi Dekhenge

The subliminal message to the rest of India and the world is that any criticism on Kashmir, henceforth, is more or less irrelevant. Even the US is now complicit.

There’s a second message for the Kashmiris: The world has no time to listen to your complaints of human rights violations. India’s political class forgot you some time ago and is, in any case, now distracted by protests in Jawaharlal Nehru University, Jamia Millia Islamia and elsewhere.

Welcome, 2020. The Modi government’s willingness to exercise leverage in the show of power is a brutal reminder in the midst of candlelight gatherings singing Faiz Ahmed Faiz and “Hum Dekhenge” that there are two sides to every story.

By sending Kenneth Juster & Others to Kashmir, the Modi government is simply saying: Hum bhi dekhenge. We shall also see.

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22 Comments Share Your Views

22 COMMENTS

  1. I think it’s safe to say that foreign delegates will not be allowed to roam around the Kashmir valley without security cover. Roaming around clandestinely wouldn’t be advisable either. In fact, one doubts any foreign government will give their elected officials authorization to visit the valley officially, without security cover.

    Visiting as ‘private’ citizens isn’t what countries do to each other in sensitive border areas, because that’s called spying.

    Clearly the central government is trying to assuage the international community with friendlier audiences. Nothing wrong with that.

    Ultimately, though, opposition leaders have to be allowed to speak in public. They are after all Indian citizens. Sure, have them sign a bond not to incite violence, but my sense is that all those, currently, under detention have already been made that offer. It would be revealing if ThePrint could confirm or deny that hypothesis, in a broader initiative to dig into why some people remain under detention, while others have been released after signing bonds.

  2. It’s a miracle that PM Modi and HM Amit Shah has achieved by abolishing article 370 without any loss to property or life. Hats off to the JODI no 1. What leftist could not achieve in 70 years, Modi has done in 5 years.

    • how can one write such brazen lies? no loss of life? even without counting custodial deaths, and “accidental” killings, what about those who were lost out on medical care due to restrictions? no suffering either i suppose? the apple harvest destroyed, thousands of tradesmen pushed into poverty, students forced to miss classes, exams and admissions – lives ruined!!!

  3. From total shutdown to only few political leaders kept in house arrest. No communication to full communication except internet. That too without losses material as well as Human. That too in J &K which was terrorist infested state…..Modiji and Amitji. .tusi. Great ho !!!! You are simply Great !

  4. I am unable to understand this move of Indian Govt to take few diplomats stationed in India on a guided tour to Kashmir but not allowing the Diplomats of Europe who insisted for a open tour and even not allowing them to meet pro Indian politicians who are under house arrest since August 5th one of them is even member of Indian Parliament, means nothing is well

    • Exactly ! As long as the government does not allow foreign journalists into Kashmir without being escorted by the PM, no-one in the free world is fooled that it is not as undemocratic as North Korea.

  5. From the comments by many in response to earlier articles I thought external opinion don’t matter and govt should not care for them.

  6. It comes as a surprise and causes distress to the leftists like Jyoti Malhotra that the government is pursuing the interests of India, but countries world over are hard nosed about using any leverage they have in advancing their interests. Thanks to the juvenile governance culture introduced by Nehru, we are the last country to enter this game. These leftists want India to remain a forever soft state that keeps shouting empty slogans at the world even while they are laughing at us.

  7. Great move by the government; gives vent to external stakeholders. However, the government must take more measures in building confidence and trust in the valley. Keep going.

    • The diplomats who are still visiting J&K must have read the supreme court verdict asking the government to review its restrictions on internet, etc. because they violate the right of freedom of the people! What are they going to think, when the country’s very own supreme court says the government is wrong? The next batch of the diplomats from the EU countries, which is supposed to visit J&K may not even bother to go there! The country’s supreme court has told the whole world what are the realities there!

  8. Kashmir is still in a tunnel and we cannot see even a pinprick of light at the end of it. A few envoys visiting as guests of MEA does not materially change that position. The US Ambassador would be getting a daily report from his station chief that is almost as well informed as our own government’s assessments are. 2. Today’s apex court judgment on internet and Section 144 is a reminder that the free pass will not last forever. 3. As far as the rest of the world is concerned, Kashmir has now been overlaid with nationwide protests relating to CAA and other related issues. If conquering the world was one of our early objectives, we don’t seem to be getting there at all.

        • What choices does any government have? Only two. (1) either have a massive internet surveillance like the CIA, MI5 or China; (2) lockdown en masse. Ideally, India, with its size and geo-strategic vulnerability, should have a highly sophisticated pre-emptive system to detect the chatter. There is always some collateral damage, for instance loss of innocent lives in the Ukranian plane crash because of US-Iran tic tac toe.

          • India doesn’t have any of the above two choices, as unlike China, it is a democracy! Below is how an edit in ET puts it.

            “For a liberal democracy in 2019-20, indefinitely suspending internet access in a region it considers to be an integral part of its own sovereign territory is not great advertisement for either ‘liberal democracy’ or governance. The Supreme Court’s verdict on Friday that internet services are a part of Article 19 of the Constitution — providing ‘basic freedoms’ that include the freedom of expression and the freedom to carry on any business — calls a spade a spade. It has demanded that internet services be restored in Kashmir for all essential services, and that all orders for the general suspension of internet services and implementation of Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which bans assembly of four or more people in an area, be reviewed within a week. This is both welcome and comforting.”

      • Internet is a fundamental right, the supreme court has said! Here is what it has said:P ” ….. internet services are intrinsic to the right to free speech and cannot be suspended without providing reason and duration”. It is intrinsic to FREEDOM OF SPEECH, WHICH IS A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT! FOR YOUR FURTHER INFORMATION, NONE OF THE THREE JUDGES WHO WROTE THIS VERDICT HAS AN ARABIC NAME!

    • Government can do whatever it wants (detain, internet ban, curfew) if there will be protest/stone pelting or violence in the future

    • Conquering the world !! Oh my God. Kashmir – a place of Shaivism got converted in to Islam in 500 years and any country with self respect would try hard to retain the region. Would the apex court stand in front of the stone pelters and teach them ahimsa. In all this only stick works and nothing else. OK NP. The government will keep reviewing and extend all measures to ensure Kashmir is peaceful. Who governs this country – the government or the apex court. If there is stone pelting, government can and should do everything to stop that.

      • Bombastic statements are privilege of armchair critics waiting for all government moves to blow up in its face. All these tears for the deprived are just cover. The only prayer is to bring back Sonia-Pawar-Lalu-Mamta coalition back to the centre as if they had turned India into the world’s blue eyed. This can also be called shooting from the hip. “Conquering the world” is just one example.

    • You have used “we” and “our” in ” If conquering the world was one of our early objectives, we don’t seem to be getting there at all.” but you are always accusing the government and not doing any thing to achieve the objectives you mentioned. People like you can only bark and create hurdles for the ones who wants India a shining light in the world. Shame on you.

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