A Uyghur activist whose visa to attend a conference at the headquarters of the exiled Tibetan government in northern India was revoked on the weekend hinted Monday that New Delhi may have bowed to pressure from Beijing, which labels him a terrorist.
“I think my visa denial was India’s effort to maintain its bilateral relations with China,” Dolkun Isa, chairman of the World Uyghur Conference (WUC), said in a statement from Germany, where he is living in exile.
Isa, 49, was granted a tourist e-visa to attend a conference organized by the U.S.-based “Initiatives for China” in Himachal Pradesh’s Dharamshala town. Members of the Uyghur community and other exiled dissidents, including the Dalai Lama, are expected to attend the two-day conference, from April 30, to discuss democratic transformation in China.
Isa’s visa was revoked Saturday following a protest from Beijing, which called him a terrorist.
“Dolkun is a terrorist in red notice of the Interpol and Chinese police. Bringing him to justice is [the] due obligation of relevant countries,” Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said last week after India issued a tourist visa to Isa.
An official of India’s Ministry of Home Affairs who requested anonymity told BenarNews that New Delhi’s move to cancel Isa’s visa “had nothing to do with pressure from Beijing.”
“We need to respect the Interpol. Since [Isa] has a red corner notice against him, we would have had to arrest him the moment he landed in the country,” the official said.
The Home Ministry official said the tourist visa was issued to Isa because the government was unaware of the red corner notice against him.
‘Not published openly’
Isa is not currently listed as wanted on Interpol’s website.
“You are right, you can’t find my name on the Interpol website. I think there are different list of Interpol, some lists which are not published openly,” Delhi-based media outlet The Wire quoted Isa as saying.
"I have been detained in the past at the airport (South Korea in September 2009 for three days), and was also denied entry into the U.S. in 2006 – this problem was solved in 2012, however, and I have since been able to enter the US for travel and work for the past 4 years," he said.
In the WUC statement, Isa voiced disappointment that he would not be able to attend the “a vital forum through which ethnic and religious communities in China-related areas, as well as statesmen, scholars and activists, are able to meet openly to discuss and exchange ideas, promote peaceful dialogue, and reinforce bonds between disparate communities.”
Isa added that his visa was cancelled after his scheduled visit “was widely reported in the Indian press.”
He rejected reports that India initially granted the visa to get back at China’s recent veto to place Masood Azhar, chief of Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), on the United Nations Security Council Sanctions list.
“Such an unjustifiable comparison seeks only to delegitimize my decades of impassioned work as a strictly non-violent campaigner for Uyghur rights,” Isa said.
Tenzin Ninjey, the organizer of the Dharamshala conference, said last week that China was wrong to brand Isa a terrorist.
“Dolkun Isa is a peace activist. There is no comparison at all with terrorist Masood Azhar,” he told Indian news agency ANI.
Later on Monday, Union Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju told reporters in New Delhi that Isa’s visa was cancelled because he applied in the wrong category.
“He has given wrong information on why he wanted to visit India. The e-visa application said he wanted to come as a tourist though he was coming here to attend a conference and that is why we had to cancel his visa,” Rijiju said.
Indian opposition parties slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government for bowing to Chinese pressure.
“What was all that chest thumping earlier?” asked former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Omar Abdullah on Twitter. “For the last few days we were treated to a lot of self-congratulatory chest thumping about how this government is the first to stand up to China.”
But former diplomat M.K. Bhadrakumar said India had done the right thing by reviewing its decision to grant visa to Isa.
“Had it been otherwise, there would have been serious negative fallouts on the relationship with China. All one can say at this point would be that there has been a political decision, conceivably at the highest level, to supersede the foreign and security policy establishments’ earlier move to issue an ‘electronic visa’ to the [Uyghur] fugitive,” Bhadrakumar said in his blog.