The delegation of the European Commission in India on Monday seemed to distance itself from a clutch of resolutions by members of the European Parliament seeking to debate India’s Citizenship (Amendment) Act, or CAA, that describe it as a “dangerous shift" in the way citizenship will be determined in India and possibly create a major statelessness crisis.
“The European Parliament is an independent institution, sovereign in the organization of its work and in its deliberations. The texts referred to are draft resolutions by political groups in the European Parliament," said a person familiar with the matter.
A spokeswoman for EU Foreign and Security Policy also clarified that, “The opinions expressed by the European Parliament and its members do not represent the official position of the European Union (EU)."
Strong support for the Indian government came from France with a person familiar with the developments on the French side in New Delhi saying that the CAA is India’s internal matter.
“For France, a founding member of the EU, the Citizenship (Amendment) Act is India’s internal political matter. We have stated this on several occasions. The European Parliament is an institution independent of the member states and the European Commission," the person said.
The comments came a day after India called for engagement between New Delhi and the EU “to get a full and accurate assessment of the facts before they proceed further" with discussing and voting on the resolutions.
It also comes as India and the EU are preparing to hold their annual summit meet in Brussels on 13 March. The EU is India’s largest trading partner and the two sides aim to seal a bilateral trade and investment treaty.
Former foreign secretary Kanwal Sibal said that should the resolutions be passed, though non-binding, they would affect India-EU ties. “India’s image is taking a beating because of longstanding traditional prejudices in liberal (European) circles," he said.
The Indian government says that the CAA aims to fast-track Indian citizenship for Hindus, Sikhs, Christians, Buddhists, Jains, and Parsis seeking asylum in India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan over religious persecution or fear of it, prompting criticism that the Act is anti-Muslim. Parallel moves by the government to identify illegal migrants in the northeastern state of Assam have resulted in 1.9 million people being left out of citizenship rolls. This has stoked fears that the government could roll out this exercise nationwide and deny citizenship to some sections of people and has led to protests in many parts of the country against the CAA and the proposed National Register of Citizens. Some protests have been going on since December, while others have been called off.
In Brussels, where the European Parliament is based, members had tabled a total of six resolutions on CAA, according to a report by news agency PTI. They are set to be debated in the European Parliament on Wednesday and voted on the day after.