Fighting a battle for India in EU
AMONG the few supporters of India in the European Parliament, Oliver Dupuis feels if the world wants to fight fundamentalist forces like the Taliban, it has to strengthen democracies.
The European Parliament member has also been urging European nations to recognise India as an emerging Asian power and not focus on an ‘‘undemocratic China and a dictatorial Pakistan’’. The 43-year-old bachelor married to the cause of democracy feels only this process can keep a region as volatile as Asia tension-free. His own interest in the region includes fighting for the freedom of Tibet and the oppressed women of Afghanistan.
However, Dupuis regrets, his passion for democracies is not shared by the European Parliament. ‘‘Unfortunately, it does not make much distinction between democratically elected governments and non-democratic countries. It should give certain privileges to democracies like a free trade zone and preferential treatment to citizens. This will be an incentive to undemocratic nations to convert,’’ he feels.
Sitting in his modest office in the European Parliament, striking in its obvious contrast to an average Indian parliamentarian’s, Dupuis says he is trying to forge closer links with his counterparts in India. One of them is former defence minister George Fernandes, with whom he shares his Tibet passion.
Eager to downplay India’s discomfort at the financial aid to Pakistan given by the EU, Dupuis says it is just a short-term engagement to keep the latter from further sliding into chaos. ‘‘It is in nobody’s, including India’s, interest to see Pakistan explode. India, the US and Europe can together forge an alliance to counter global-terrorism,’’ he says. But for that to happen, he adds, India will have to stand up and be counted and step up its economic development.
Giving the example of China, he notes: ‘‘In Europe, when they think Asia, they think China, which has a very strong trade lobby here. Members of European Parliament (MEPs) are afraid to change the status quo and shift the focus to India. We need a strong India lobby here.’’
Dupuis’s own efforts to get the focus on India failed miserably earlier this year when his report urging this was ripped apart by China supporters in the European Parliament. Dupuis had also called upon Beijing to give up its occupation of Indian territory and return Aksai Chin to India. Though ‘‘outmanoeuvred’’ by ‘‘a very strong Chinese trade and diplomatic lobby’’, both Dupuis and his Radical Party say they will keep the pressure on. The experience, he adds, shows that in the EU, economic ties far outweigh other considerations like democracy and governance.
Another reason India still does not figure on the new world map, he feels, is because it followed a stand-alone, non-aligned policy after the end of Cold War. ‘‘The Indian politicians are looking at the world with different eyes, but the establishment has to remove its blinkers. The world has changed fast. The Indian mindset is that the world is just London, Russia and the US. But what India needs to realise is that Brussels, the seat of the European Parliament, is the emerging star in Europe,’’ he adds.