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February 18, 2020

Envoys’ visit to held Kashmir doesn’t improve India’s image

Peshawar

February 18, 2020

The second visit to occupied Kashmir by foreign envoys in New Delhi and gloating afterwards by the Indian media does not change anything on the ground or the international perception about the historical dispute.

The visit was not a first-hand assessment of the situation six months after the scrapping of Article 370; it was a controlled farce with envoys being taken on a Shikhara ride on the famous Dal Lake. The Dominican Republic envoy Frank Hans Dannerberg Castellanos summed up the mood: “Kashmir is a beautiful place. We are just here as tourists.” Coinciding with the visit, one Indian publication recently wrote about the held Valley: “In Kashmir, schools and colleges were open for months after the dilution of Article 370 on August 5, 2019, but nobody attended them. Is that also now normal? Every now and then, U.S. President Donald Trump reminds India that he is ready to mediate between India and Pakistan, even though New Delhi insists that Kashmir is an internal matter. For the American President to repeatedly make that offer was the norm in the worst of times in Kashmir; now it has become a routine in the best of times as well. Is this too the new normal?” That perhaps says all.

To quote South African journalist Shanon Ebrahim: “Kashmir has become the new settler colonial project …India’s great son of the soil Mahatma Gandhi had issued a prescient warning to his compatriots to guard against the rise of a ‘regime of brute power’ in India that would mirror English rule without the Englishmen.”

She added: “Today many are remembering that warning with the brute force that is being exacted on the people of Kashmir, whose fate and UN-protected right to self-determination is largely being ignored by the rest of the world… in recent years, numerous reports from human rights organisations have documented protesters having been blinded by the pellet guns used by the security forces, which have also caused serious injuries, many to children.

“It has been reported that over 10,000 civilians have been forcibly disappeared, and in places of incarceration there has been widespread rape, torture, and extra-judicial killings. Last year the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued a damning report on human rights abuses in Kashmir by Indian security forces, and the High Commissioner demanded access to Kashmir in order for an independent inquiry to be conducted, but the demands were ignored.” But besides held Kashmir, protests over the CAA continue to hurt India’s image and economy. It was reported in the media that WisdomTree Investments, with $64 billion under management, now does not call India a “haven” for investment. It says while it hasn’t lost faith in the country’s growth story, but it’s concerned rising political and social tensions will delay an economic recovery from the slowest pace of growth in six years. “Modi’s latest initiatives are creating divisions over religion and national identity,” said Aneeka Gupta, a research director at the fund manager. “Communal tensions between Hindus and Muslims are at risk of dragging on for years. Recovery is likely to be slow and protracted in 2020.” Apparently, Modi’s priorities are stoking communal tensions and Pakistan panic in the country more than its economy, which is on the downslide.