Dolkun Isa visa affair has left India red-faced – Kanchan Gupta

Kanchan Gupta“As in Tibet, Beijing has been trying to suppress and crush Uyghur nationalism and separatism through its triple policy of overwhelming force, sly co-option and massive resettlement, though not necessarily in that order. Inducements of office and power are offered to Uyghurs willing to collaborate with Beijing.” – Kanchan Gupta

In this era of e-activism which does not require activists, both wannabe and genuine, to march through streets in blistering heat or biting cold, social media has become the barricades of our times.

Consequently, to man the barricades has come to mean to rush to the keyboard and post your protest (or defence) on Twitter or Facebook.

You don’t chant rhyming slogans like “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh, We shall fight and we shall win”; you coin hashtags and make them trend—nationally and globally.

Dolkun IsaConference

And so it came to pass that when news first broke of India granting a visa to Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa for attending a conference on China at Dharamsala, excited supporters and e-activists of the BJP reached for their keyboards to wave the flag and heap praise on Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Soon, the hashtag #ModiSlapsChina was trending, fetching further excited chatter. It would seem this was the moment India was waiting for since the humiliation of 1962; the moment for revenge and redemption.

Few, if any, among those cheering the Modi government would have had heard of Dolkun Isa before this, or known of him as the Uyghur dissident who lives in exile in Germany and is believed to hold a German passport. Isa heads the World Uyghur Congress which has been campaigning for the rights of Uyghur Muslims in China’s Xinjiang province.

As in Tibet, Beijing has been trying to suppress and crush Uyghur nationalism and separatism through its triple policy of overwhelming force, sly co-option and massive resettlement, though not necessarily in that order. Inducements of office and power are offered to Uyghurs willing to collaborate with Beijing.

There are some takers, but the vast majority rejects China’s repressive rule and abhors the Han Chinese who have been ferried in as settlers with the aim of changing the demography of the province.

Over the decades, Beijing has modulated its position on Tibetan separatists. They are now called “splittists”. This is largely because little remains of the country the Dalai Lama fled in 1959 to seek shelter in India.

Compared to Tibet, Xinjiang is a different story. The indigenous Uyghur population, of Turkic extract, has refused to be bludgeoned into submission. Beneath the turbulent surface simmers fierce hate.

What has fuelled Muslim separatism is the global rise of jihadist Islamism. Beijing claims the East Turkmenistan Islamic Movement, affiliated to al Qaeda, is behind the ethno-religious uprising by “terrorists”.

Dolkun Isa is accused by China of being a “terrorist” who uses his perch in Europe to mobilise funds and arms for Uyghur separatism. The accusation may be entirely untrue, but in the past other separatists have used liberal Europe’s shelter to mobilise resources for armed insurrection. Given this reality, it becomes difficult to scoff at China’s claim and accusation.

Masood AzharBut that is precisely what New Delhi was perceived as having done in response to China blocking India’s move at the UN Security Council (UNSC) to secure sanctions on Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar who plotted and executed the Pathankot attack.

In the past, China has restrained India’s hand on Hafiz Saeed and his lieutenants in Lashkar-e-Taiba by invoking its right to block. Worse, China justified the protection it extended to Azhar by lecturing India on the need to be good friends with Pakistan, pretending its deed was that of a well-wisher, when in reality it was akin to sprinkling salt on India’s wound.

It’s this backdrop that made the visa for Dolkun Isa a big issue: India had done unto China what China had done unto India, or so the hashtag nationalists believed and proclaimed.

For more than a week the narrative gathered steam and the #ModiSlapsChina balloon grew bigger by the day. Oped-ists rushed in with their two-penny views. Foreign affairs analysts agonised over possible fallouts of a Modi-Xi clash.

The lusty cheers of e-activists grew into a cacophony of nationalist slogans. The barricades shook and looked as if their collapse under the force of Right triumphalism was imminent.

Protest

Then the least expected happened. The visa (it turned out to be an e-visa meant for tourists) was withdrawn. This was done after China lodged its protest with India for giving a visa to a “wanted terrorist” and pointed out that there was a “red corner” notice mandating Isa’s arrest if he were to arrive at an Indian port.

There were various explanations credited to unnamed sources on why the visa was cancelled: that Dolkun Isa could not have attended the Dharamsala conference with a tourist visa; that as a responsible country India could not have allowed unhindered travel to a person against whom there is a “red corner” notice; and, that it was never a considered decision to spite China by thumbing our collective nose at that country.

Interpol Notice LogosThese are lame excuses. A realistic explanation would be this was yet another halfway house act of standing up to China (or the mighty US and even puny Pakistan, for that matter).

When push came to shove, India, as always, meekly allowed itself to be shoved. The only other explanation would be this is another instance of two key ministries, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs, not knowing what the other is up to.

Mystery

Either way it remains a mystery as to why the #ModiSlapsChina narrative was allowed to build up to a virtual point of no return. It also remains unexplained why India would feel constrained to issue a visa to a German national against whom China bears a grudge. We can be pretty sure China would not reciprocate in a similar manner.

Nor did China pillory the US for ignoring the “red corner” notice while opening its doors to Dolkun Isa. Foreign policy is largely about pushing, promoting and securing the national interest. And what is in the national interest is often bereft of moral principles, ethical niceties and obligations to the world at large. It is silly to even remotely suggest that India should play by the rulebook while dealing with China.

Sadly, the whole messy affair over the visa for Dolkun Isa suggests those who should be playing a crafty power game to push India’s national interest are either incapable of craftiness or simply gutless. Yet they are happy to ride the tide of hashtag nationalism till the tide recedes and a new one rolls in, this time bearing the hashtag #ChinaSlapsIndia. – Daily-O, 29 April 2016

» Kanchan Gupta is a popular columnist who writes on national and regional politics, international affairs and security issues.

Dolkun Isa Visa

2 Responses

  1. Visa denial to Chinese puts MEA in red corner – Narayan Lakshman – The Hindu – Chennai – 30 April 2016

    Oddly, a search by any criterion for Mr. Isa on Interpol’s Red Notice web page does not pull up his record; however what he says about China’s case against him is true and Washington has also chose on multiple occasions to disregard the RN against Mr. Isa. It leaves a rather troubling question unanswered by India: Why did it choose to toe China’s line and revoke his E-visa when the American example makes the case for countries to ignore RN if the person was not known to be involved in violent crime or terrorism? Also if it is now New Delhi’s policy to appease China so meticulously then why permit such an anti-Beijing conference to take place on Indian soil at all, and allow all manner of activists challenging a nation’s hegemonic tendencies to participate?

    Even as India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) denied visas to two prospective participants in an anti-Beijing conference in Dharmasala, legal experts have questioned the idea that Interpol Red Notices (RNs) serve as undeniable warrants of arrests in countries that cooperate with the international criminal police organisation.

    The denial of visas to Chinese activists Ray Wong and Lu Jinghua on Thursday came less than a week after an E-visa issued to Dolkun Isa, an exiled Uyghur wanted by China and having an RN against him, was cancelled post-issuance.

    However senior New York-based lawyer Ravi Batra told The Hindu that while an RN was the closest thing to an international arrest warrant the fact that the U.S. permitted Dolkun Isa, also the head of World Uighur Congress, to visit and freely move in the U.S. during the recent Nuclear Security Summit time period spoke volumes about the mandatory-arrest nature of the RN.

    RNs are the highest level of alert and are based on a national arrest warrant. The stated function of the RN is to “seek the location of a wanted person and his/her detention, arrest or restriction of movement for the purpose of extradition, surrender or similar lawful action.”

    “Sovereign nations have both the right and obligation to conduct their affairs of state as best suits them, and honour their own national priorities, which they, not Interpol, set. Of course, the fundamental core obligation of every nation is to protect public safety,” Mr. Batra said.

    Indeed, in remarks made to The Hindu, Mr. Isa cited a study by the non-partisan Centre for Public Integrity (CPI) which noted that a five-month probe by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists showed a “little-known side to Interpol’s work: That in cases from countries such as Iran, Russia, Venezuela and Tunisia, Interpol Red Notices were not only being used for legitimate law enforcement purposes, but to round up political opponents of notorious regimes. According to the CPI study, more than 2,200 of the published RNs were from countries listed as providing no political rights or civil liberties by the independent NGO Freedom House, and among the top 30 countries requesting public RNs were Azerbaijan, the United Arab Emirates, China, Rwanda, Vietnam, Tajikistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya, Iraq and Iran.

    In 2013, UK-based NGO Fair Trials International said that the credibility of RNs was being undermined as they were being misused by some of the 190 participating states to pursue exiled political opponents, and this was a problem particularly because under Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution the agency was strictly forbidden from undertaking any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character.

    Mr. Isa, who confirmed that the RN against him at Beijing’s request was issued in 1997 and yet travelled to the U.S. many times since 2012, most recently in March this year, had strong words for how Beijing’s had sought to characterise him. He said China labelled him a terrorist “primarily as a means to delegitimise the human rights work that I do to support the Uyghur community… China tries to get the rest of the international community to see all Uyghurs as violent – a claim that clearly does not hold up to scrutiny if information is available.”

    Oddly, a search by any criterion for Mr. Isa on Interpol’s RN web page does not pull up his record; however what he says about China’s case against him is true and Washington has also chose on multiple occasions to disregard the RN against Mr. Isa. It leaves a rather troubling question unanswered by India: Why did it choose to toe China’s line and revoke his E-visa when the American example makes the case for countries to ignore RN if the person was not known to be involved in violent crime or terrorism? Also if it is now New Delhi’s policy to appease China so meticulously then why permit such an anti-Beijing conference to take place on Indian soil at all, and allow all manner of activists challenging a nation’s hegemonic tendencies to participate?

    If the MEA has answers to these questions, as well it might, then it should not come as a surprise if more such cases of visa denial based on RNs come up in the future, especially given the proposal to merge India’s internal “blacklist” with Interpol’s data.

    However whenever India denies an individual a visa based on Interpol-driven criteria, it may leave the MEA open to criticism over the political factors behind the RN in question if any.

  2. That the right hand of the NDA government doesn’t know what the left hand is doing is no surprise!

    If the Interpol red corner arrest notice against Dolkun Isa was really an issue, why hasn’t he been arrested when he travels in Europe or the States?

    Why has India not asked Interpol to issue red corner arrest notices against Masood Azhar and other known Pakistani terrorists? Why is there no Interpol notice against Dawood Ibrahim?

    If such notices were issued, these terrorists would have to be arrested when they go to Saudi Arabia or Qatar to collect their monthly jihad allowances.

    This Modi Sarkar is a really a big embarrassment for its friends!

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