India faces diplomatic isolation over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, and National Register of Citizens (NRC), which are tantamount to a "self-inflicted goal", former national security adviser (NSA) Shivshankar Menon said on Friday amid growing global criticism of the law.
Speaking at an event organised by the Constitutional Conduct Group and Karwan-e-Mohabbat, Menon, who also served as foreign secretary, strongly criticised the government's handling of CAA and NRC, the revocation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370 of the Constitution, and the relationship with the US.
"There has been no meaningful international support for this series of actions, apart from a few committed members of the diaspora and a ragtag bunch of Euro MPsfrom the extreme right," said the diplomat, who served as NSA during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's tenure.
Menon noted the list of critical voices was growing – "from [French] President [Emmanuel] Macron to [German] Chancellor [Angela] Merkel to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, to visitors like the King of Norway, who'd normally be polite".
"The perception of India has changed in the last few months. Even our friends have been taken aback," he said. "We have gifted our adversaries platforms from which to attack us."
The external affairs ministry has mounted a massive campaign through its missions in foreign capitals to counter the criticism of the CAA and to explain its perspective to its interlocutors.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar has said India has conveyed to interlocutors around the world the CAA does not alter the basic structure of the Constitution or seek to strip citizenship from any Indian of any faith. The CAA is an internal process and it doesn't affect existing avenues available to other communities from seeking citizenship, he added.
CAA, which provides an expedited process for granting citizenship to members of persecuted non-Muslim minorities from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, has been criticised by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) for being discriminatory.
The law, Menon said, has also led to India being hyphenated with Pakistan. "What we achieved in the recent past is to hyphenate our image with Pakistan's in a fundamental way, as religiously driven and intolerant states," he said.
Disengagement from the world community is no longer an option and global opinion matters more than ever before, he said. "But we seem determined with actions like these to cut off and isolate ourselves. This can lead to no good," he added.
Noting that the Bangladesh home minister remarked "let them fight among themselves" when he was asked about CAA and NRC, Menon said, "If this is how our friends feel, think of how happy we makeour adversaries."
CAA also violates international conventions and commitments, Menon said. "Those who think international laws cannot be enforced, they must consider political and other consequences of being perceived as violators of international laws," he said.
Referring to external affairs minister S Jaishankar's decision to cancel a meeting with the US House foreign affairs committee because of the presence of Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, who has been critical of the security lockdown in Kashmir, Menon said: "We seem to know that we are isolated...Rather than attending this meeting and rebutting her charges, we chose to duck this."
He noted a resolution moved by Jayapal asking India to end the lockdown in Kashmir now has 29 co-sponsors, including members of the Republican Party, and "the only Indian-origin lawmaker who attended the Howdy, Modi conference [in Houston in September]".
Menon also raised the issue of a slogan during the event in Houston featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald, "Abki Baar Trump Sarkar", and said the Indian government had broken a long-standing bipartisan consensus in the US by coming out openly in support of Trump. The Kashmir issue was discussed by the UN Security Council after almost 40 years, he added.