A “cumulative effect of a series of actions” over the past year —from the Union government’s treatment of Kashmir to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA) — has made India “increasingly isolated” from the rest of the world, former Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon said on Friday.
He said India’s actions may be in violation of Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights that requires rights of the Covenant “to be applied to all individuals in its territory with no distinction of any kind,” highlighting that it reads “all individuals”, not just citizens.
Speaking at an event organised by the Constitutional Conduct Group and Karwan-e-Mohabbat at the Press Club of India, Menon said, “What we have achieved in recent past is to hyphenate our image with Pakistan’s in a fundamental way as religiously-driven and intolerant states…. We have lost India’s ability to be an example and a model for other countries in the subcontinent…”
He said, “Disengagement or going it alone is not an option, but we seem determined with actions like this to cut ourselves off and isolate ourselves.”
Menon also questioned Foreign Minister S Jaishankar’s decision to cancel a meeting with the US Congress’s foreign affairs committee, which would have also been attended by Chennai-born US Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has tabled a resolution critical of CAA. “Rather than attending a meeting and rebutting these charges, we chose to duck this,” he said. “We have broken the bipartisan consensus that used to exist in the US for the last 25 years.”
Menon, who played a critical role in the India-US nuclear deal, cited examples of US Congressional hearings, language on Kashmir added to the US Foreign Appropriations Act for 2020, and the bipartisan support for the Congressional resolution critical of CAA.
He said there has been “no meaningful international support” for India’s recent actions, barring some diaspora members and extreme-right Parliamentarians. On the other hand, the “list of critical voices abroad is quite long,” he said, and named France’s President Emmanuel Macron and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel.
“All knowledgeable people I have spoken to seem to agree that we seem to be in violation of our international commitments. For those who say international law cannot be enforced, we must consider the political and other consequences of being perceived as violators of international law,” Menon said.
He pointed out that the United Nations High Commission has condemned CAA, and the UN Security Council has discussed Kashmir after 40 years.
Menon also drew upon the shifting opinions of media organisations from across the political spectrum, from the ‘Wall Street Journal’ to the ‘Guardian’. Referring to Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan’s remarks —“let them fight among themselves”, when asked about CAA and NRC — he said, “Even our friends have been taken aback. Is this what we want? If this is what our friends think, what would our adversaries be thinking? … We have gifted out adversaries a platform from which to attack us.”
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