Rejecting Rebiya Kadeer’s visa application

…was a prudent and astute move by New Delhi

Rebiya Kadeer is indeed a remarkable woman. In recent weeks—not least due to China’s propaganda campaign to demonise her—she has emerged internationally as the best known symbol of Uighur separatism in China’s Xinjiang province. She has unequivocally advocated a non-violent political struggle, claimed that she is inspired by the Dalai Lama’s principles and is almost surely sustained by US government funding.

The Calcutta Telegraph reports that India has denied her a visa (linkthanks Pragmatic Euphony via twitter). That is both prudent and astute. Whatever the merits of the Uighur cause, it is not in India’s interests to further escalate the level of direct antagonism with Beijing. Doing so would almost certainly draw attention away from the real faultline: between China and Turkic-Islamic world.

The ethnic riots in Xinjiang have caused a major rift in China’s relations with Turkey, after Receb Tayyib Erdogan, the popular Turkish prime minister, accused Beijing of conducting genocide and suggesting that it be taken up at the UN Security Council. China-Turkey bilateral relations are at a low. The Central Asian republics are also likely to be re-examining their own positions with respect to relations with China.

In contrast, the ‘Muslim world’ of popular imagination—the one that President Barack Obama spoke to in Cairo—has been conspicuously silent. Apart from a threat by a North African ‘affiliate’ of al-Qaeda, even the tapeworm and his traveling videographic studio has been silent about Chinese atrocities on Xinjiang’s Muslims. It is understandable that the regimes of such representatives of the ‘Muslim world’ as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Iran are beholden to Beijing but even the civil society in these countries has given China the pass. But if the Uighur unrest continues, it is likely that Islamabad, Riyadh and Tehran will be put in an uncomfortable but well-deserved position. [Update: Rohit Pradhan notes that “Death to China” chants were heard at Rafsanjani’s rally in Tehran]

India should let the issue play out among the direct and self-appointed stakeholders. Intervening in a way that China sees as unfriendly will only draw the heat away and give the megaphone-wielding, concern-expressing capitals of the ‘Muslim world’ an undeserved reprieve.

The issue of an Indian visa for Ms Kadeer is only of symbolic importance. If she wants to meet the Dalai Lama, she could catch up with him on his travels abroad.

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27 Responses to Rejecting Rebiya Kadeer’s visa application

  1. Alagu Periaswamy 26th July 2009 at 20:33 #

    It is highly strange that Ms. Kadeer is seeking to involve India instead of, say Turkey, or Saudi Arabia in the genocide of the muslims in China’s Uiguristhan Province. She can also write a letter to his Holiness Dalai Lama and rest assured.

  2. Udayan 26th July 2009 at 20:38 #

    @Nitin,

    Civil society across the Middle East is quiet because it is at the thumb of the rulers who are beholden to Beijing. No wonder that the famed ‘Muslim street’ is silent. It can get wild at the mention of atrocities on Palestinians or an insult to Islam, but only because the regimes allow and desire it. No surprises.

    If Iran is an exception it is because it’s not the same type of dictatorship as the gulf Arab states.

  3. Arvind 26th July 2009 at 21:00 #

    I’m not sure on this one. The Chinese seem to understand only power play. And this would have been a good instance to demonstrate India’s “soft power”. But then again the recent insurgency in Turkestan seems to be the result of an “Islamist” movement. So there is that angle to consider. But she could have atleast been given a forum to represent her views. That wouldn’t mean India agrees with all her opinions. So this seems to have been a mistake IMHO.

  4. DaveyBoy 27th July 2009 at 07:49 #

    @ Arvind

    Read the article again. You haven’t gotten the point he was trying make. In international affairs, symbolic acts are as good as voicing an opinion. Issuing a visa is as good as agreeing with her views. Besides, according her a forum will only give an excuse to the ‘Muslim World’ to put the heat on India which they, if given the opportunity ,would do in a heartbeat. By according her a forum, the Chinese can argue that this is the fomenting of internal disturbances by a grousy neighbour and not due to the result of their own internal policies. So read the article again.

  5. gbz 27th July 2009 at 12:18 #

    Its odd to argue that it was ‘prudent and astute’ of india to deny a visa to her. This presupposes that India COULD have given her a visa. I fail to envision a scenario in which india could have done it, india did the only thing it could possibly have done. It had no other realistic option. Imagine china giving a visa to geelani or yasin malik.. I’m not trying to draw a moral equivalence between the two, but strategically, its quite the same.

    @daveyboy: “By according her a forum, the Chinese can argue that this is the fomenting of internal disturbances by a grousy neighbour and not due to the result of their own internal policies” — I seriously doubt anyone outside china would believe (or want to believe) the argument that india is behind what’s happening in Uighur areas.

  6. Oldtimer 27th July 2009 at 14:33 #

    >>Imagine china giving a visa to geelani or yasin malik.

    Is NOT giving the visa the only realistic option China has? I doubt it.

    Realistically speaking, India shouldn’t get involved. The conflict is between two authoritarian mindsets: Islamists (even if nominal) on one hand and communists (even if nominal) on the other. It’s better for us to watch them fight a battle of attrition, from the sidelines.

  7. DaveyBoy 27th July 2009 at 14:50 #

    @gbz

    “I seriously doubt anyone outside china would believe (or want to believe) the argument that india is behind what’s happening in Uighur areas.”

    Go through my post again. It’s not about belief at all. In fact that’s what ‘excuses’ are all about. They’re always oblique justifications for events having a better explanation than the one presented by the excuse. As Nitin’s post explains, the muslim world needs someone else besides China to blame. Last I checked, belief or the lack of it has never prevented them from hurling accusations at India before. I don’t see why, if the opportunity presents itself, this should be any different.

    If foreign policy was conducted on the basis of truth the world would be a different place.

    Besides, your belief that the Chinese might remotely believe that India could be behind this is laughable to begin with.

    That’s the entire point of Nitin’s post. The non-issuance of visa prevented us from being seen as abettors and subsequently being made into scapegoats. And you don’t have to do anything culpable from being made into scapegoats. Just ask Manmohan Singh & Co. after their Egyptian sojourn. As someone said earlier, they had arrived as victims of terrorism and returned on an even footing with a rogue nation.

  8. Udayan 27th July 2009 at 15:16 #

    @gbz

    I fail to envision a scenario in which india could have done it, india did the only thing it could possibly have done. It had no other realistic option.

    This might have even been believable if not for the fact that India hosts not just a separatist leader and emigres, but the whole goddamn separatist government in exile. I refer, of course, to the Dalai Lama and his government.

    But that was sooo long ago, you say? So what if it is? We still host them. And just a few years ago we gave a visa to the Karmapa. This is not counting the hundreds of refugees we take in year after year.

    I would think India can realistically do a lot of things.

  9. Alagu Periaswamy 27th July 2009 at 18:13 #

    The culprits of the Uighur problem are the Chinese govt. — the hypocrisy and impotence of the so-called “muslim world” when it comes to Chinese govt.’s ill-treatment of muslim minorities in China needs to be exposed.

    These same worthies have never shied from dissing India about J&K or Gujarat riots of 2002. Amazing that these worthies do not have a WORD to say about Ms Kadeer and the CCP’s violence against uighur muslim minorities.

  10. Arvind 27th July 2009 at 18:36 #

    @DaveyBoy

    “Besides, according her a forum will only give an excuse to the ‘Muslim World’ to put the heat on India which they, if given the opportunity ,would do in a heartbeat.”

    I don’t know who coined the phrase “Muslim world” but whoever did so has inadvertently fallen for the propaganda of OBL and the likes of “Caliphate”. The ground realities suggest there is no Muslim world. Be it domestic policies or even foreign policies. Fun fact: Palestinians were and are still treated as second class citizens in Egypt and Jordan. Muslim world? Yeah right!

    In any case, most of the Muslim countries didn’t come to aid of Uyghers. So if India becomes powerful there is no question of these countries “putting the heat”. Plus I’d flip the argument. I’d say this move would improve India’s standing among Muslim countries esply Turkey. They would realize only India and the US have the guts and POWER to take on China. And they themselves cannot do it.

    “By according her a forum, the Chinese can argue that this is the fomenting of internal disturbances by a grousy neighbour and not due to the result of their own internal policies.”

    If this is the argument we shouldn’t have Dalai Lama either. In fact I don’t know about his opinion but many Tibetans take the “Chinese line” and believe that Arunachal Pradesh is their territory i.e. Southern Tibet. We should worry not about what the Chinese can argue but instead about what is in our best interest. Rebiya Kadeer lives in US. So why don’t Chinese say or do anything about it?

    If China can supply nuke material and blueprint to Pak and even conduct a test for them at Lop Nor and start interfering in India’s backyard like Hambantota in SL then China’s “internal problem” is no longer internal.

    Plus Xinjiang from what I see in the map borders POK but not Indian Kashmir (not sure if Aksai Chin is part of Xinjiang or Tibet). So this region is extremely important and strategic for India. The way I see it with the events currently unfolding I think Pak will not be “unified” for a long time. When it splinters, it would be the right time for India to make POK part of India. And for that having a “friendly” Xinjiang (not necessarily independent) helps. Even if the above scenario doesn’t pan out, hosting Rebiya is not a bad thing at all IMHO. Yeah the Chinese are gonna complain. So what? It is not as if they are India friendly otherwise.

  11. AG 27th July 2009 at 19:36 #

    So this means that to MMS and co, being a kowtowee of the chinese is more important than being a kowtowee of the ‘muslim world’

    interesting

  12. Chandra 27th July 2009 at 21:39 #

    Nitin, it’s all well and fine if one does it from a point of strength. India’s position is clearly not that. So the symbolism really is India is doing Chinese bidding – like it has always done. It’s nice to know India is sensitive to China’s territorial integrity. I am sure Chinese are too.

    Muslim world vs China issue should be irrelevant to what India does in this case. At worst, if we gave the visa, could Turkey be our friend?

    Also, I am sure Dalai Lama can find a place to live elsewhere too. Why antagonize the Chinese? I wonder why Nehru didn’t think about it.

    @AG, well said. I suppose apparent muslim world not protesting is clue to GOI.

  13. Alagu Periaswamy 28th July 2009 at 00:33 #

    Clearly, Ms. Kadeer cannot put her pants on without the permission of the US State Dept., so the question is “what is the need for the US to send Ms. Kadeer to India at this time?”. It does not appear that the Xinjiang violence has resulted in a widespread movement for a freedom struggle against the Chinese dictatorship. In any case, if India wants to support Xinjiang rebels, it needs to be done with about half a kilo of plausible deniability.

  14. Udayan 28th July 2009 at 06:55 #

    @chandra

    You suggest we should do it out of spite, because we are, as you suggest, weaker. That is a dubious reason for antagonising China.

  15. Chandra 28th July 2009 at 09:15 #

    Udayan, it’s dubious to think we have to seek favour with China – which seems to be the only reason to reject visa for this person – not the other way round. As one should know from history, Chinese returns no favours. It respects only those who stand up to it.

    I am glad at least the Japanese thought differently.

  16. Jaideep 28th July 2009 at 12:18 #

    We probably said something similar about Tibet during the Olympics…I do not see how issuing a visa could have diverted attention. In fact, if she made a statement in India, perhaps with the Dalai Lama, the plight of the Uighurs AND Tibetans would be highlighted. If they were to secede (which will NOT happen), it would be a political bonanza for India. India needs to capitalise on every damaging image of China that opportunity sends our way. This would at least sway the masses in Europe and America and make it harder for the likes of Obama to make rubbish speeches about Sino-American relations defining the 21st century.

    I agree, however, that India should NEVER arm those chaps. Reagan armed one militant Islamic group and see where that got us. I would never support arming a religious group.

  17. Prasanna 28th July 2009 at 13:29 #

    I dont agree with Mr. Nitin Pai. As Swapan Dasgupta pointed out in one of his articles, Kashgar has had historic links to india, and that it does not anymore have an indian presence shows how much our strategic reach has shrunk. and that we speak of it as “having nothing to do with us” shows how low our ambitions are, and have been after decades of decay and colonization.

    India once exerted influence from Cambodia and Indonesia to Tashkent and beyond, and now we cant ever get to the karakoram.

    China is building bases in sri lanka, in burma, in pakistan. We OUGHT to have the Vision of the Indian Ocean as an Indian lake, like the pacific is an american lake. We ought to have the Vision for an india whose citizens can freely roam, trade and work in lands from central asia to east asia by virtue of our power, influence, interests and links bringing opportunity and prosperity for increasing numbers of our citizens.

    We lack imagination. Our discourse – even in right leaning nationalist circles such as these – is limited, diffident and stunted.

  18. DaveyBoy 28th July 2009 at 14:08 #

    @Arvind

    “The ground realities suggest there is no Muslim world.”

    lol. Replacing ‘muslim world’ with ‘muslim countries’? Yep, that sure does change the argument.

    This is not a debate on the existence of the muslim world. There are islamic countries with a record of diplomatic hostility towards India.

    “They would realize only India and the US have the guts and POWER to take on China.”

    Really? India has done more good for muslims than China and is still despised considerably more than the Chinese by the ‘muslim countries’. Again, you should actually read Nitin’s article. It’s a good read. It says that status quo is the best bet for India. No need for bravado here. No need to make them ‘realise our guts’. lol. This is not a NAM summit. No need for them to realise our guts only for us to spill them for nationals of other countries. This is not a talent show.

    “If this is the argument we shouldn’t have Dalai Lama either.”

    But we do. This is an article about what IS hapenning and not what should/should not have happened.

    While your sentiments are courageous and bold, they do not have a place in this discussion of non-issuance of visa to Ms. Kadeer. An independent Xinjiang is very thoughtful but then so would be an independent Tibet. Unfortunately these are more appropriate as topics of another discussion. But to feed your decolonising frenzy – starting with the Naxalite infested areas would be a more realistic beginning.

    Hambantota is a part of India’s backyard. It can be argued that so is the Pakistani coastline, Myanmar, Nepal and half a dozen countries. You should probably have a naval base at Manila then. Hell, why not one at Hong Kong?!? Yes, noble endeavours. But not equivalent to the issuance of visa to Ms. Kadeer.

    Yes. Just because someone is not friendly (but not an enemy either) we should throw all caution to wind and do whatever we want irrespective of the impact it’ll have on bilateral relations. Sounds like Kim Jon Il speaking.

    Have a nice day!

  19. DaveyBoy 28th July 2009 at 14:13 #

    @ Arvind

    P.S. The term ‘musilm world’ in quotes to begin with. That should be self explanatory.

  20. Alagu Periaswamy 28th July 2009 at 16:29 #

    The terms “muslim world” and “muslim countries” are far from equivalent.

    “muslim world” implies a monolithic entity with a common set of interests and goals. “muslim countries” already exhibit the fact that they have divergent interests and a total lack of unity in purpose.

    If “muslims sticking together” makes “muslim world” a viable entity, how come no one talks about the “christian world” then? Clearly, a lot of christian countries too demonstrate an ability to stick together against others, but somehow that term “christian world” is avoided by all and sundry who have no problems with the notion of a “muslim world”.

    The mostly backward “muslim countries” (except for Turkey, Malaysia, and indonesia to a certain extent) have demonstrated the ability to crank up the volume and shout slogans against democracies as a substitute for their own inadequacies in managing their respective countries. They have also demonstrated a singular lack of cohesiveness in solving common problems and issues via cooperation among themselves.

    If these countries demonstrate such behaviour, on what basis can one pretend that “muslim world” is the same as “muslim countries”? The elusive “Muslim world” seems like a phrase invented by some lazy fellow in the US state department who couldn’t be bothered to put some more thought into it, as usual.

  21. gbz 28th July 2009 at 17:28 #

    @oldtimer:
    >>Is NOT giving the visa the only realistic option China has? I doubt it.

    I’m not talking about china’s options, but india’s. I don’t think we are talking about the same thing. We in india (or its diaspora) have a tendency to overestimate the power and presence india carries.. China has decidedly more options available to it vis-a-vis india than the other way round. And you can blame that on india’s zero-self-confidence foreign policy of the last 65 yrs (barring the vajpayee admin’s 6yrs). Anyway, giving visa to kadeer would have been clear escalation and would have invited a response we would not have liked. India did have the option of linking a visa to kadeer with the china’s intransigence on Arunachal, but thats needs statesmen and diplomatic corps with the courage to follow thru on such a strategy.. i need not comment of the diplomatic balls of our bureaucracy. And you can’t carry out an escalation without a larger long run strategy which india clearly doesn’t have wrt china. A visa to kadeer would just not fit into india’s current save-my-ass-uncle-sam foriegn policy wrt china. Net, india had no other option given its larger strategy or lack thereof.

  22. gbz 28th July 2009 at 17:46 #

    @daveyboy
    >> Go through my post again. It’s not about belief at all. In fact that’s what ‘excuses’ are all about.

    i think you need to understand that all accusations and excuses aren’t created equal. If you intend to accuse someone of something there has to be some credibility to your claim. ‘truth’ is not the issue, ‘perceived truth’ however is. China would only lose credilbility and look foolish if it accusses india of abbetting uighurs, and its smart enough to know that. Giving kadeer a visa would not change that fact. It would become a distracting diplomatic sideshow, but little more. Nevertheless, i obviously agree with your primary point that it makes no sense to give her visa in the first place. But there is no ‘astuteness’ to it whatsoever.

  23. gbz 28th July 2009 at 18:07 #

    @daveyboy
    >>Last I checked, belief or the lack of it has never prevented them from hurling accusations at India before. I don’t see why, if the opportunity presents itself, this should be any different.

    Yes, they can hurl accusations at us.. So what? Unless you are emotionally unstable, i’m not sure how that makes any difference for so long as no one is taking them seriously. The credibility of your accusations matter.
    Secondly, the larger game here is between the Chinese and the west. If china would want to pin the uighur troubles on anyone, they would much rather pin it on the west than india.

    >>If foreign policy was conducted on the basis of truth the world would be a different place.
    i can’t repeat myself again, but if you even drop the pretense of ethics and following the truth you become a north korea. perceptions, credibility matter… You only need to look at america’s loss of face and credibility over WMDs in iraq to appreciate the issue. Even america can’t get away with it without paying a price.

    >>Besides, your belief that the Chinese might remotely believe that India could be behind this is laughable to begin with.
    I think you misunderstood my point. By ‘believe’ i don’t mean actually believe, but ‘officially believe’ — ie state position. And no other state would take that position easily. refer my qualification -> ‘or want to believe’ –> ie, take such an offical line without looking silly.

  24. gbz 28th July 2009 at 18:27 #

    @udayan
    >> This might have even been believable if not for the fact that India hosts not just a separatist leader and emigres, but the whole goddamn separatist government in exile. I refer, of course, to the Dalai Lama and his government. But that was sooo long ago, you say? So what if it is? We still host them. And just a few years ago we gave a visa to the Karmapa. This is not counting the hundreds of refugees we take in year after year.

    Two things: (1) it would be stupid to draw equivalence between tibet and the uighers.. these are two vastly different cases. We ‘wish’ the uighur case was like the tibetan, but it isnt. (2) regarding tibet the ‘equilibrium’ between india and china is very different. Both sides have long ago accepted the ‘rights’ of each side with respect to that issue.. something you alluded to yourself. Taking more refugees each yr and allowing the dalai lama and the rest of the tibetan nation to live inside india is something china has accepted long ago –> it is the equilibirum in that case. India does not change that by allowing that to continue. Giving a visa to kadeer opens a new front, with an equilibrium of its own, and we would be escalating the tension in that case. Not that i wouldn’t love india to do that, but you need men capable of running such a policy. manmoron and the congress are quite the anti-thesis of such a leadership. Such a policy of deliberate esacalation can work extremely well and we obviously have the example of the brilliantly executed diplomatic operation around the kargil war in 1999 that completely changed the global status-quo on kashmir between india and pakistan within 6 mths. Most people don’t recognize the extent to which that war and the diplomacy around it completely transformed the indo-pak equation … for one, i havent heard BBC and CNN complain about human rights violations in kashmir since then. We just dont have the people to run such a policy right now.. and china is a different beast from pakistan.

  25. Arvind 29th July 2009 at 09:12 #

    @DaveyBoy

    “This is not a debate on the existence of the muslim world. There are islamic countries with a record of diplomatic hostility towards India.”

    Only when it came to Kashmir in Oh-I-see meetings (this is jus rhetoric anyways so who cares?). Even here Iraq supported India. Anyways my point is India has to look beyond Kashmir and Pak if it wants to be recognized and more importantly respected as a global power.Did you recently read about the “naval bases” in Oman and Qatar (or should I say “naval docking facilities” LOLZ) in the defense pacts that India has signed with these countries?

    “India has done more good for muslims than China and is still despised considerably more than the Chinese by the ‘muslim countries’.”

    Precisely corroborates my point that in international diplomacy, power projection is as important as “doing good”. Proves nice guys finish last.

    “This is an article about what IS hapenning and not what should/should not have happened. ”

    This is what we call a COP-OUT. If we have hosted Dalai Lama because he speaks for oppressed Tibetans then we shoud host Rebiya because she speaks for oppressed Uyghurs. Yes there might be an “Islamist streak” in their movement but so what? Doesn’t mean there’s gonna be a Caliphate tomorrow because of these guys. And combining the plight of Uyghurs with that of Tibetans gives the struggle of these people against the oppressive Hans much more exposure.

    “You should probably have a naval base at Manila then. Hell, why not one at Hong Kong?!? Yes, noble endeavours. But not equivalent to the issuance of visa to Ms. Kadeer.”

    Well I’d personally prefer bases in Vietnam and Taiwan on the South and East China seas. But currently Indian naval capability is not that much. Plus I think India securing the sea lanes from Gulf of Aden to Malacca Straits is much more important strategically (most of the oil from Gulf that is transported through Malacca straits use this route) and that is why u can see China clamoring for space in the Indian Ocean. In any case, if India doesn’t have the guts to even grant visa for a pipsqueak like Rebiya, it doesn’t say much about building bases in “China’s backyard” not to mention being a “global power”.

    “Just because someone is not friendly (but not an enemy either) we should throw all caution to wind and do whatever we want irrespective of the impact it’ll have on bilateral relations. Sounds like Kim Jon Il speaking.”

    What are they gonna do? Attack India? For issuing a visa to Rebiya? Become hostile to India. So what’s new? When was the last time China showed “love” for India? Anyways, most of your post I thought was reasonable. But these 2 statements together should go for “Darwinian award”. No offense to Koreans but comparing India to a tiny tinpot dictatorship like NoKo shows your level of intelligence and grasp of issues involved.

  26. Arvind 29th July 2009 at 09:31 #

    This is slightly OT but might be “tangentially pertinent”. India should decide what its role globally is gonna be as a nation? Is it gonna more resemble Japan which is an economic powerhouse but has outsourced its security to Uncle and has Uncle’s bases for its protection? Or is it gonna resemble China which is highly “independent” and is respected (note I didn’t use the word “loved”) by most nations. Now this respect that China has gained was won “hard” through the defeat of Uncle in battles like Korea (if it’s not victory, it’s defeat, right?) and Vietnam. Now I’m not saying that India should blindly follow this approach if it wants to “more resemble” China. One crucial distinction is India has this “soft power” as opposed to military “hard power” of China. Grating visa to Rebiya would be an exercise of that soft power. However if India is unwilling or unable even to exercise that power, then she doesn’t DESERVE to be a “global power” and to be equated or compared with China. In that case with increasing rift between India and China in the power structure, the Naxalist problem is only gonna increase and who knows, China might even “take over” Arunachal Pradesh because of its impunity. Only way to avoid that would be to outsource India’s security to Unkil. Of course assuming Unkil is willing giving the massive trade between Unkil and PRC.

    JMT paisa FWIW.

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    […] accuses of masterminding recent unrest in its western province of Xinjiang. Many Indian strategists applauded the decision – only for the Uighur Human Rights Project to later deny the reports. New Delhi, the strategists […]

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