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Now obviously I do not have access to what the Prime Minister is thinking of, or don’t even know if this issue reached him in the first place. This is my analysis of what may have happened.

Someone routinely issued an e-visa to Dolkun Isa. There would not have been a huge reason to refuse. In fact this was a good way of getting ‘back’ at the Peoples Republic of China for not having supported India on the Azhar issue. However, once the Chinese made their disapproval clear (probably in Moscow where there was a Russia-China-India meet), someone in the Government must have re-calibrated the   positives and negatives of issuing the visa.  The positives were that

  • India would been seen to strike a blow for self-determination (that is what Isa is fighting for) and human rights. The danger is that the rest of the world, especially China, can point fingers at India for not doing the same within her borders; think Kashmir, think Nagaland.
  • India would be able to cock a snook at the PRC. In the realm of diplomacy, this is childish. Plus India did this in a BIG way in 1959 when it helped HH Dalai Lama to escape to India and then establish a base in Dharmashala. The marginal utility of doing this for Isa was probably too small and not worth taking a big diplomatic risk for.

The negatives were that

  • It would become a prestige issue with the PRC and they would make trouble for India – the Arunachal issue is for ever on the back-burner and does not take much time to heat up further.
  • It would affect economic ties and co-operation on issues like the BRICS Bank, water sharing & management thereby unravelling years of work.

Someone fairly high up took a call that issuing the visa was not worth it. They obviously knew that there would be fall out in the media and opposition and civil society on this U turn.  They knew that it would seem as appeasement of the Chinese.

Of course the Government also knew that most Indians would have never heard of Uighur Muslims and their problems in China. Some of those who have heard will support (or oppose) government on whatever they do.  The rest are so few that they do not really matter. Not much anyway. Anyway, Governments do not (definitely should not) run on what the chatterati think. Plus the government also knew that this outrage would be short-lived.  Remember the outrage on engagement with Sri Lanka in spite of the Human Rights violations? You don’t? Exactly.

Realpolitik dictated that Isa be denied a visa, realpolitik won.