Storm brews over ‘broker’ Madi Sharma’s role in trip
Writing about herself on the website, Sharma states that “I am a public speaker internationally, particularly in the field of entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship, diversity; gender balance and my passion for corporate social responsibility CSR”.Updated: Oct 31, 2019, 07:05 IST
A businesswoman who led a delegation of European lawmakers to assess the ground situation in Kashmir remained a subject of much conjecture even as the visit concluded on Wednesday, with the Opposition seeking clarity from the government on how the international public relations exercise was conducted.
According to the self-styled sociopreneur Madi Sharma’s own website, Madi stands for “Make a Difference Ideas”. Inventive acronyms aside, the question that continued to hog social media discourse through Wednesday was: Just who is Madi Sharma? The woman was described variously as a business broker, NGO head, gender rights advocate, social thinker, etc.
Writing about herself on the website, Sharma states that “I am a public speaker internationally, particularly in the field of entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship, diversity; gender balance and my passion for corporate social responsibility CSR”.
The website states that she is an entrepreneur who founded the Madi Group, which calls itself a group of international private sector and social enterprises, not-for-profit companies and NGOs. The group, it says, includes a business brokerage company “which links global corporate companies, business to business and governments through Introductions, Intelligence and Innovation”. Sharma also heads WESTT (Women’s Eco-nomic and Social Think Tank), aimed at “working on concrete solutions for issues facing the development and progress of women in international communities”.
WESTT conducted the lawmakers’ tour in coordination with an organisation called the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS). Some of the social media accounts of the website on Google and Twitter showed bogus or non-existent accounts. When contacted by Hindustan Times, IINS, headquartered in New Delhi, said the office was shut for the week.
The Opposition said the visit amounted to internationalising the Kashmir issue, which went against India’s consistent position that it is an internal matter, simultaneously calling into question Sharma’s role in the event.
“Will the Prime Minister tell us who is Madi Sharma?” the Congress’s chief spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said. “What is the connection of the BJP to Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT) as also to the International Institute for Non-aligned Studies [IINS]?”
At a press conference, Surjewala questioned why and in what capacity had Sharma fixed an appointment with the Prime Minister for the delegation of European members of Parliament.
“...why is the government of India facilitating it? Where is the money to finance the entire visit coming from? Why has the MEA [ministry of external affairs] been completely sidelined?” he asked.
Chris Davies, a member of the European Parliament (MEP) from the UK , on Tuesday said WESTT invited him to meet Modi on Monday and to visit J&K before the invitation was allegedly withdrawn after he insisted on moving freely during the trip.
A chain of email communications HT has accessed showed that Sharma, an entrepreneur and the WESTT chief, approached Davies on October 7 to join the delegation for a three-day visit to J&K. She wrote that the Delhi-based IINS would bear the expenses of the trip.
The Union government and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declined to comment on these allegations. A BJP spokesperson said it was up to the ministry of external affairs to react as it had nothing to do with the party but was an issue involving the government. A senior member of the BJP’s foreign cell, who asked not to be named, said he was unaware of Sharma’s identity.