‘It has happened in the Middle East’: Row over Indian diplomat’s J&K remarks
India’s top diplomat in New York created a flutter when a video emerged on Wednesday that showed him suggesting that the country emulate Israel’s example to ensure the return of Kashmiri Pandit refugees to Jammu & Kashmir.
Sandeep Chakravorty, the consul general in New York, was filmed making the remarks at a private event on Saturday that was also attended by filmmaker Vivek Agnihotri, actor Anupam Kher and members of the Kashmiri Pandit community settled in the US. The hour-long video was posted on Facebook by Agnihotri.
The external affairs ministry did not comment on the issue. Chakravorty, who is believed to be a front-runner to become the ministry’s next spokesperson, tweeted that he had “seen some social media comments on my recent remarks”, which he said “are being taken out of context”.
In the video, Chakravorty, who spoke in a mixture of Hindi and English, is shown saying he would express some personal views and then give the “government’s position” on the issue of Jammu & Kashmir.
He described the government’s August 5 decision to revoke Jammu & Kashmir’s special status and to split the state into two Union territories as a “big international risk” that could have led to “international opprobrium”. He added that India had “successfully stalled” an “international diplomatic struggle” on the Kashmir issue and the Kashmiri Pandit refugees will be able to return with time.
“I believe the security conditions in Jammu & Kashmir will improve, it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime you will be able to go back and you will be able to visit your villages... and you will find security because we already have a model in the world,” he said.
“I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East... if the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it. I think we should just follow from them and push our leadership. We have to push our leadership to do that, otherwise what is the benefit?” he added.
He further said: “Somebody spoke about the Jewish issue and the Israel issue. They kept their culture alive for 2,000 years outside their land and they went back. I think we all have to keep the Kashmiri culture alive. The Kashmiri culture is the Indian culture, it is the Hindu culture...”
Experts noted these remarks went against the Indian government’s official position that the situation in Kashmir cannot be compared to that in Palestine.
India’s position that the changes in Kashmir were an internal matter has been largely accepted by the world community. The security shutdown, communications blackout and detention of hundreds, including top political leaders, however, has been criticised by the US and the European Union. Western powers have called for the easing of these restrictions.
Chakravorty criticised the international community’s efforts to focus on the Kashmir issue, saying: “We have never used our strength as the majority community. We have never used the strength of our Hindu culture, of our ancient civilisation in diplomacy...when we are using it today, then people have problems, there are resolutions against us and it is being taken to the (UN) human rights council and the US Congress.
“Why don’t they go to other places? Go to Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan... you don’t talk of going there. Why do you want to come to our country? They don’t like it that we are now asserting ourselves.”
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan contended in a tweet that the diplomat’s remarks reflected the “fascist mindset” of the Indian government. Khan again raised what he said was the “worst violation” of human rights of the Kashmiri people while “powerful countries remain silent (because) of their trading interests”.
The event in New York was organised to discuss Agnihotri’s proposed film on the displacement of thousands of Kashmiri Pandits due to the terrorist campaign that began in 1989.