Members of the European Parliament have expressed ‘concerns’ regarding Indians internal matters while calling for greater ties between the European Union and India. The Foreign Affairs Committee (FAC) has adopted a report that makes a series of comments on the domestic issues of a foreign country.
However, the emphasis of the report was on better ties and a closer relationship with India on account of India’s rising influence in geopolitics. A press release published on the 14th of April, 2021 notes, “The text agreed by MEPs states that while the EU and India, as the world’s two largest democracies, and as strategic partners, share strong political, economic, social and cultural links, bilateral relations have not yet reached their full potential and require increased political engagement.”
The report, according to the press release, “advocates closer value-based trade relations between the EU and India, and the need to work together on reforming the World Trade Organization (WTO).” “Furthermore, the value of sectoral partnerships is emphasised, with regard to support for environmental goals, public health and the fight against COVID-19, private and public investment, connectivity, data protection and digital services,” it added.
At the same time, however, the MEPs called for the European Union to renew its efforts to improve relations between India and Pakistan and said that the EU is closely following the developments in Kashmir. It does not, however, say anything about the abrogation of Article 370 which indicates an acceptance of India’s decision.
The press release said on China, “They also expressed concern at the deteriorating relationship between India and China, and the role of China’s expansive policy and substantial military build-up in the area. MEPs reiterate their support for peaceful dispute resolution, the need for constructive and comprehensive dialogue, and the upholding of international law on the India-China border.”
The controversial part, which Indians will find irksome, is the section on human rights. It says that the MEPs are concerned with ‘deteriorating human rights situation’ in India.
“This includes reports that human rights defenders and journalists in the country lack a safe working environment. There are also concerns about the difficult situation faced by Indian women and minority groups, caste-based discrimination, as well as the closure of Amnesty International’s India offices after its bank accounts were frozen over an alleged violation of India’s Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), a law three UN Special rapporteurs have asked to be amended,” it said.
The press release added further, “The report also voices alarm regarding India’s Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is fundamentally discriminatory in nature against Muslims and dangerously divisive.”
The text was approved with 61 votes in favour, 6 again and 4 abstentions. The comments indicate that while statements will continue to pour in over ‘human rights’ in India, it is unlikely to impact the growing ties between India and the European Union.
Furthermore, it is ironical that MEPs are expressing concern over human rights in India at a time when Covid-19 vaccine production in the country has taken a hit due to an embargo on raw materials required for production by the USA and EU.
Thus, it is quite evident that the European Union, like the USA, cares a lot about human rights, except the human right to life. Despite their sermons on ‘human rights’, it is abundantly clear that it has more to do with posturing for domestic audience than any attempt to coerce India.
Advocating for closer ties with a country while expressing concerns over its human rights situation might appear bizarre on the onset but is the normal course of affairs in international relations. It is why the USA can continue to sermons on human rights even after bombing countries into slavery and plunging an entire region into anarchy through military intervention.
By contrast, the CAA is a humanitarian law that seeks to expedite citizenship rights for religious minorities from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh, three countries where non-Muslims are discriminated against greatly due to their religious beliefs.
With regards to Amnesty, the opposition is more understandable as foreign-funded NGOs often serve as convenient platforms for western countries to meddle in the affairs of a foreign nation. Amnesty, itself, is known to have close ties with the British state, which is no longer a part of the European Union.