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India-Denmark Relations at Their Lowest

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By Shastri Ramachandaran | IDN-InDepthNews Viewpoint

NEW DELHI (IDN) - The Royal Danish Embassy in New Delhi is a reminder that Denmark has fallen off the map of India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). Neither the change at the helm – from Manmohan Singh as prime minister to Narendra Modi – nor foreign secretary Sujatha Singh being replaced by S Jaishankar has altered Denmark’s situation.

The Government of India (GoI) barely acknowledges the Danish embassy as a diplomatic entity, which is kept out of official programmes. However, the embassy does not deny a visa to any Indian, including journalists, who want to visit the land of Hans Christian Andersen, known for famous fairy tales, including The Little Mermaid and The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Therefore, not many know that India-Denmark relations are at their lowest. Only in Denmark, on meeting Danes who didn’t get a visa, it becomes apparent that India does not issue visas to Danish media people and even those in government, politics and culture. So few are favoured with visas to India, that it is hard to say who would not be turned away.

Four years ago, a Danish TV crew came on a tourist visa and made a dubious film. Despite GoI’s warning that the film was shot in violation of visa conditions, the state broadcaster aired it. This seemed a provocation at a time when ties were already strained by Copenhagen’s refusal to appeal the court order, in 2011, against extraditing Kim Davey – wanted by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the Purulia arms drop case. Besides, there were other issues – including Danish media’s cartoons of the Prophet, which Indians and New Delhi found objectionable – vitiating bilateral relations.

The government of the day made matters worse by citing India’s atrocious human rights record and abominable prison system to justify its refusal to extradite the terrorist Kim Davey. In spite of such righteous posturing, a year later – in 2012 –Denmark made diplomatic overtures to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to show its displeasure at the previous government consigning it to the diplomatic doghouse.

Long before the British High Commissioner re-opened, in October 2012, the so-called international community’s line to Modi, the Danish ambassador was already talking to him. MEA officials concluded that the ambassador was unlikely to have acted on his own in this matter. The same country, as part of the same “international community”, had isolated Modi for the 2002 massacre of Muslims in Gujarat under his watch. Now it was cosying up to Modi.

Change of governments in Denmark had not changed the Danish stand. Yet Copenhagen believed that after the elections, when Modi replaced Manmohan Singh, Denmark would be back in favour. Months after Modi became Prime Minister, Denmark remained isolated.

In a desperate bid, the Danish prime minister (PM) sought to attend the Vibrant Gujarat summit, but in vain. When Jaishankar became foreign secretary, not granting a visa to the Danish PM for the summit was listed among the “sins” of Sujatha Singh, which earned her Modi’s wrath. Jaishankar is very much in command of the MEA. Yet there is no sign of the visa regime being relaxed for Danes.

In diplomatic and media circles in New Delhi and Copenhagen, the talk is about how such exercise of visa power reflects on India and its democracy. No one argues against Denmark as State and government being isolated for its transgressions. But why punish the Danish people alone when India does not deny visas to visitors from even “enemy countries” like Pakistan, is the oft-asked question in places where it matters. It is time Delhi came up with an answer.

*This article first appeared in DNA and is being reproduced by arrangement with the writer, an independent political commentator. [IDN-InDepthNews – 8 May 2015]

Image credit: LinkedIn

Shastri Ramachandran's previous IDN articles: http://www.indepthnews.info/index.php/search?searchword=shastri ramachndran&ordering=newest&searchphrase=any

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