On one hand where Prime minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Paris is being praised by all, in another french city Strasbourg the European Parliament called on the Indian government to act promptly to halt the violence in Manipur and protect religious minorities. The government of India called the E.U. legislature action unacceptable.
The EP resolution asked the government “to protect all religious minorities, such as Manipur’s Christian community, and to pre-empt any further escalation”. It also calls on authorities to grant unhindered access to the area by journalists and international observers and to end Internet shutdowns.
In a recent resolution, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on the Indian government to repeal the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and prioritize human rights in its dialogue and relationship with India. The resolution, which also addressed rights issues in Venezuela and Kyrgyzstan, brought together diverse political parties in the European Parliament.
The resolution specifically referred to the UN Universal Periodic Review’s recommendations, emphasizing the need for India to repeal the AFSPA, which was deemed unlawful by the European Parliament. However, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, strongly condemned the European move, describing it as “unacceptable” and reflecting a “colonial mindset.”
Bagchi stated that Indian authorities, including the judiciary, are actively addressing the situation in Manipur and working to maintain peace, harmony, and law and order in the region. He criticized the European Parliament, suggesting that it should focus on its own internal issues instead.
During the pre-vote debate, MEPs expressed concerns not only about the situation in Manipur and the treatment of minorities but also about human rights in India as a whole. Pierre Larratourou, an MEP from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, criticized Prime Minister Modi and the government’s policies since 2014, calling for the acceptance of democratic functioning and an end to the criminalization of government critics.
Larratourou emphasized the importance of human rights in the EU-India partnership, including trade, and urged EU leaders in India to address human rights concerns openly and consistently. He clarified that the resolution did not propose severing relations with India but rather called for India to improve as a democracy.
MEP Sven Simon, a Christian Democrat from the Group of the European People’s Party, voiced support for the resolution, urging India, as the world’s most populous democracy, to uphold religious freedom, including for Christians in Manipur. Simon expressed frustration with left-leaning and Green MEPs who failed to acknowledge the specific impact on Christians in the region.
Finnish MEP Alviina Alametsa, from the Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance, echoed her colleagues’ concerns about the shrinking space for free expression in India. She highlighted the narrowing freedom of the press, arrests of journalists and activists under false pretenses, and an increase in discrimination and hate. Alametsa, who personally witnessed these issues during her visit to India in December, called for human rights and democracy to form the core of India-EU relations, including trade.
The European Parliament’s resolution has sparked a significant debate between India and the European Union, with the Indian government rejecting the call to repeal the AFSPA and criticizing the European Parliament’s intervention as an interference in internal affairs. The MEPs’ concerns about human rights, freedom of expression, and religious freedom in India underline the importance of an ongoing dialogue between India and the European Union to address these issues and work towards a better democracy that respects human rights.
While both India and the European Union recognize the significance of their partnership, this resolution serves as a reminder of the shared responsibility to uphold human rights and democratic values in their bilateral relationship. The resolution calls for constructive engagement, urging India to take necessary steps to improve religious freedom and safeguard the rights of all its citizens, while also emphasizing the need for the European Union to support and encourage India’s progress in these areas.
The clashes, primarily between the Kuki and Meitei communities, have been ongoing for nearly two months and have resulted in significant damage and displacement in Manipur. Thousands of homes burned, hundreds of churches destroyed and a significant loss of life.
It will be interesting to see how the Indian government will respond to the European Parliament’s resolution and whether both parties can find common ground to ensure human rights are protected and promoted in India-EU relations.