To Be or Not To Be - Europe’s Dilemma of Economic Interests versus Human Rights
Part I - Kashmir
To be or not to be is not just a naïve semblance of the internal conflict of one noted individual in English literature. Shakespeare by this statement has actually captured the historic socio-political and economic dissonance within European thought process. ‘To be or not to be’ is the ultimate interpretation of European political dilemmas, persistently catching up to all domains of European life; be it Turkey’s membership to EU (European Union), EU relations with USA, EU internal fault lines, EU dependence and displeasure with KSA, EU flawed prognosis of Middle East, distancing with Visegrad, Relations with Iran etc. Europe is stuck within ‘to be or not to be’. One such historical dilemma of thought and action fueling rotten politics is the dispute of Indian occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The Kashmir issue was once more thrust into the limelight by the viral video of a scared Kashmiri toddler sitting on the dead body of his grandfather, who was brutally shot dead during a so-called police encounter. The picture of this anxious child, fearful of his surroundings yet innocently clinging the only one he trusts, amid state sponsored chaos exhibits the innate problem of Indian aggression in occupied Jammu and Kashmir.
The European media, marginally covering the incident and angling it towards law and order, hardly rose to its projected immaculate standards of freedom of speech and human rights. Resultantly, people once again looked, showed quasi-concern and, yet again, turned away.
This European response to such blatant Indian actions in occupied Jammu and Kashmir has persisted since the very initiation of the dispute. Initially it was historical lingering over the UK’s loss of colonialism, absolving the rest of Europe, but the EU cannot any longer self-immune from the dispute. Its silence on the Indian abrogation of article 370, the imposition of inhumane curfew and communication lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, which persists to date, cannot be ignored.
The heightened dilemma reappeared in the EU's parliament hearing on the controversial Indian Citizen Amendment Bill. EU parliament delayed voting on the draft resolution that represented six groups of European politics. Apparently, 626 out of 751 MEPs (Member of European Parliament) is not enough majority for EU to stand for the oppressed Muslims in India. Perhaps 751 out of 751 or even more might have been democratic enough for the real power holders to act out.
The voting came amid Modi’s proposed visit to Brussels for the bilateral summit. Noticeably, the Indian lobbyist projected the voting and discussion on the problematic bill as a pro-India vs. pro-Pakistan debate. This idea, readily bought by some unsuspecting European politicians, automatically paved the way for the setback. Furthermore, other MEPs caused a delay in the final voting, desiring more time ‘to study the details’. One can only hope that the researcher cum politicians got enough time during the pandemic shutdown to thoroughly grasp the rocket science of the state's brutality with documented evidence. In fact, the whole world has seen the limitations of the lockdown, which are still slight compared to what the Kashmiris have been facing.
The European ‘to be or not to be’ dilemma was more evident with the unofficial visit of MEPs to Jammu and Kashmir in October 2019. This was an all expense paid tourist visit, which was the result of wide scale persuasion from the side of the Indians. The word ‘unofficial’ was cleverly used by the EU stakeholders to appease both India and any other probable opposition on the matter. How come by terming it ‘unofficial’, the EU parliament is absolved from taking responsibility of its own members.
The Indians carefully selected MEPs representing far right, euroskeptic and Islamophobic parties (National Rally, AfD and Brexit Party, Ruling Law and Justice Party). These were the reflection of Modi’s own regime. These selected few who enjoyed boat rides in the midst of gross human rights’ violations should have been ashamed of conducting a tourist visit to an occupied territory. If these MEPs did not have the morality and guts to stand up to Indian aggression then they at least should have exhibited enough self-control so as not to be used as a tool to serve Indian designs. Such propagated visits are unprecedented even by European far-right standards; who knew that the lure of an all-expenses paid tourist visit to an inaccessible yet scenic occupied territory could be so hard to resist. Presently, anticipating sobriety from European far-right parties is in itself an inherently flawed expectation.
This far-right visit also shed light on the disillusioned role of the so-called think tanks who in reality are playing the role of political caucuses and lobbyists for their shareholders. The Delhi Institute of Non-aligned studies (openly supported far-right in its interpretation of non-alignment) and Women Economics and Social Think Tank (WEIST), sidelined Kashmiri women for its own self-serving ambitions.
The underlined reality is that the EU is India's largest trading partner with two-way trade amounting to $115.6 billion (€101.3 billion) in 2018-19. Among EU Member States, Germany is both the largest importer of goods from and the largest exporter of goods to India. Germans secure their business before any other formalities; this may be the reason that the DW shrewdly procured and placed a picture of the child laughing along with the news of his grandfather’s murder in his presence. France has clung to India since the realization of its Rafale deal and that in itself is quite an amusing story.
Europe also has to ignore Indian actions amid possible free trade agreement. Indian role is also enhanced at it is perceived to balance China in the region. In addition to rising EU tensions with China; over Hong Kong, mounting tensions over EU-China trade and growing Chinese influence in parts of Europe via Belt and Road Initiative.
Europeans, who have endlessly projected themselves as the creators of democracy and champions of human rights, and who have often reprimanded ‘less civilized others’ on human rights violations; have succumbed to the pressure of Indian spin doctors and lobbyists, on the basis of mutually suited economic interests. In short, the EU does not want to risk any dent in its economy over a petty human right issue on an occupied territory involving Muslims but desire to command the pedestal of morality, ethics, rule of law and a couple of other such terms, which on account of their unquantifiable silent role in human society, should not be dealt with so capriciously.