India cancelled a visa granted to prominent Uyghur activist Dolkun Isa to attend a conference in Dharamsala after angry protests from China, officials said on Monday.
The electronic tourist visa given to Germany-based Isa, described as a terrorist by China, was withdrawn after checks showed there was an Interpol red corner notice for him.
Some quarters had seen the grant of a visa to Dolkun as a response to China blocking India’s bid to sanction Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar at the UN Security Council.
The visa issued to the leader of the World Uyghur Congress on April 16 was cancelled on April 23, officials said.
A senior home ministry official said the visa was cancelled because of violation of norms.
“An electronic tourist visa on arrival is granted for four purposes - for coming as a tourist, meeting friends, for casual business and medical inquiries. But Isa was coming here to attend a conference. Once has to apply for a conference visa for that,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Asked about the government’s response if Isa applies for a conference visa, the official said the government may consider it but it will take into account the violation of norms.
China’s foreign ministry had reacted angrily after the visa was granted, telling Hindustan Times in an email statement last week: “Dolkun Isa is a terrorist on red notice of Interpol and the Chinese police. Bringing him to justice is a due obligation of relevant countries.”
After getting the visa, Dolkun had written to the Indian mission in Munich and sought an assurance that he wouldn’t be arrested on his arrival.
The conference to which Dolkun was invited will be held between April 28 and May 1at Dharamsala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, and this added to Beijing’s unease.
The meet is being organised by US-based Citizen Power for China. The group is led by Yang Jianli, who was involved in the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. Other Uyghur activists are expected to attend the event.
On Monday, Dolkun expressed disappointment at India’s decision to withdraw the visa and blamed China for blocking his plans to travel to other countries.
“I remain disappointed with the final decision, but I am hopeful that positive steps may be taken to maintain India’s relationship with the Uyghur community,” Dolkun said in a statement emailed to Hindustan Times.
Dolkun, who was granted asylum by Germany in the late 1990s, said China has prevented him from travelling to other countries.
“This is not the first time that I have faced difficulties in my international travels to advocates (sic) Uyghur rights. In September 2009, I was detained briefly and denied entry to South Korea while travelling to attend the World Forum for Democratisation in Asia, to which I was an invited guest,” he said.
With the cancellation of the visa, India has apparently avoided a diplomatic situation with China in the run-up to President Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Beijing and Guangzhou in May.
Dolkun belongs to Xinjiang in China’s remote northwest, a region that has seen frequent violence between the local Uyghur population and government forces.
Exiled Uyghur activists say the violence is a result of Beijing’s hardline policies and a reaction against the government’s efforts to subsume the unique local culture.
Dolkun took exception to the comparison in media reports between him and Pakistan-based JeM chief Masood Azhar. The Uyghur leader said he is a “peace activist”.
He added: “Such an unjustifiable comparison seeks only to de-legitimise my decades of impassioned work as a strictly non-violent campaigner for Uyghur rights.”