India has apparently had second thoughts about allowing an exiled Uighur leader to attend a conference with other anti-Beijing activists in the Dalai Lama’s adopted hometown, canceling his visa amid considerable pressure from China.
Dolkun Isa, a leader of the World Uyghur Congress, told Indian newspaper the Hindu yesterday that he had been informed via email that his Indian visa had been revoked:
I really wanted to visit India. But I received an email on Saturday, informing that my visa that was issued on April 6 has been cancelled. No explanations were given. No Indian official called me personally to convey this decision. It’s a very sad situation for us.
While no explanation was given, Isa unsurprisingly speculated that the main reason for the decision was pressure from China. He was scheduled to participate in a major international conference of anti-Beijing activists called the Interethnic Leadership Conference, taking place in Dharamsala, adopted home of the Dalai Lama, from April 28th to May 1st.
The decision to grant him a visa in the first place was a surprise to many and outraged the Chinese government last week. Isa has been on China’s most-wanted terrorist list since 2003. Living in exile since 1997 — now as a citizen of Germany — Beijing has blamed Isa for various incidents in his home region of Xinjiang. Particularly the mass riots in 2009, which killed at least 197 people. Meanwhile, Isa maintains that he is committed to non-violence in seeking political rights for China’s 10 million Uighurs.
The Indian Express explains what kind of pressure Beijing put on New Delhi to try and make them change their minds:
Isa’s visa was withdrawn days after China lodged official protests through diplomatic channels, and reminded Delhi about the “red corner notice” on him. New Delhi was also reminded that India may find itself in a “tough spot” as the Chinese will make it a major bilateral issue, sources said.
While no threats were issued, the Chinese side hinted that Beijing may raise the issue of India allowing a “terrorist” to come and attend a conference, even as Indian officials make statements at the Heart of Asia conference on Afghanistan that “there are no good or bad terrorists”.
Officials also said India does not want to be seen as a country “harbouring” and giving “safe passage” to individuals who are considered “terrorists.”
In fact, granting Isa a visa was likely a retaliatory measure from India after China blocked the listing of Masood Azhar, leader of the Pakistan-based militant group Jaish-e-Muhammed, as an international terrorist at the UN. India protested that Beijing must cast off “double standards” when it comes to terrorism. Beijing made a similar argument to the West following the Paris bombings earlier this year.
Meanwhile India’s Ministry of Home Affairs confirmed the decision to cancel Isa’s visa, explaining that the kind of visa that he had applied for (Electronic Tourist Visa) was invalid for addressing public meetings in India, adding that he was welcome to apply again under the appropriate category… for a conference that begins on Friday.