Crash Course: Introduction to nations whose envoys visited Kashmir

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The diplomats and ambassadors from twenty-four countries concluded their two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Among the envoys who visited the region, some represented known nations like France, Bangladesh, and Italy, while some countries are not so known like Bolivia, Malawi, Senegal, and Estonia, the latter having the population as much as of Srinagar.

The Kashmir Walla catalogs these twenty-four nations and their history.

Bangladesh: The south Asian nation, born after India wrested it from Pakistan in 1971, has a population of more than 160 million. The country was part of the British colony of India before 1947.

Belgium: The European constitutional monarchy has a population of more than 11.5 million and was among the founding members of the European Union. Its capital Brussels also hosts some EU offices including two seats of the European Parliament. Belgium during its colonial past considered the Tutsis to be superior to the Hutus, which later became the source for Rwandan massacres.

Bolivia: The South American country with a population of more than 11 million has witnessed two bouts of dictatorships, the last ending in 1989, and the removal of three presidents after uprisings, the last in 2019. The Bolivian army captured and killed revolutionary leader Che Guervara in 1967. Juan José Cortez Rojas, its envoy reportedly said in Srinagar: “What we are realising is that democracy took place here. It is impressive.” It was a Spanish colony.

Brazil: Home to more than 211 million, it is famous for football, drugs, and the spread of COVID-19. The South American country has seen two military takeovers, the last being in 1985. The country’s current president Jair Bolsonaro is known for his sexist and homophobic views. He was the chief guest at India’s 71st Republic Day last year. It remained a Portuguese colony till 1815.

Cuba: The country whose cigars were once contraband in the US, is home to more than 11 million. The country is also famed for the Revolution led by Fidel Castro against the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The country is considered “authoritarian” with a bad human rights record. It was a Spanish colony.

Chile: The country is best known to young generations as the downfall of the country’s dictator Augusto Pinochet is part of the Indian curriculum. The country is mired in internal problems owing to its deteriorating living standards. It was a Spanish colony for 300 years.

Eritrea: The African country was founded in 1991 after securing independence from Ethiopia. The country with a population of more than six-million is, according to Human Rights Watch, among those with the worst human rights record globally. It remained an Italian colony till it changed hands during World War 2.

Estonia: At 1.3 million the country has a population comparable to Srinagar city. The country was freed from Soviet occupation in 1991 and joined the EU in 2004. The country is spread over 17,462 square miles. J-K as on 4 August 2019 was spread over 39,145 square miles.

Finland: Best known for the Nokia brand of mobile phones, its capital Helsinki was known in public discourse after the Spanish series Money Heist. The country has more than five million residents.

France: The European country is widely known for its caricatures on figures of Islam, the Eiffel Tower, and La Delice — the only French bakery in Srinagar. Its president Emanuel Macron has risen to infamy for his anti-Muslim policies. On the first day of its envoy’s visit to J-K, France passed a controversial radicalisation bill allowing surveillance of Muslims, including at masjids and youth centres. The country’s history is chequered with colonial and crusader past. Following the 1920 Battle of Maysalun, French general Henri Gouraud went to the tomb of Salahuddin Ayubi, kicked it, and said: “Awake, Saladin. We have returned. My presence here consecrates the victory of the Cross over the Crescent.”

Ghana: A former British colony till 1957, this African nation is home to more than 31 million. The country is also a key part of the global narcotics industry, used as a transit point by South American drug traffickers, owing to its porous borders. The country has significant regional influence.

Ireland: Securing independence from the United Kingdom in 1922 after a violent insurgency, the country has been in news for its conservative laws — including its infamous abortion law. After independence, India also took a jug full of laws from the constitution of Ireland. The country has a population of 4.9 million.

Italy: A boot-shaped country in south-central Europe, that was home to the fascism of Benito Mussolini and allied with Nazi Germans, is known across the globe for its cuisines, cinema, soccer, mafia, and pizzas. Italy, during its occupation of Libya, had hanged resistance leader Omar Mukhtar.

Ivory Coast: This former French colony is known for its production of cocoa and coffee. This nation has also witnessed two civil wars in this century, following a coup in 1999. Hundreds of civilians were killed and thousands more affected.

Kyrgyzstan: This central asian nation declared independence from Moscow as recently as 1991. Kyrgyzstan has been at the crossroads of several great civilizations as part of the Silk Road and other commercial routes, however, the country continues to endure ethnic conflicts, revolts, economic troubles,transitional governments and political conflict.

Malawi: A former British colony is known for the friendliness of its people, and hence nicknamed “The Warm Heart of Africa”. However, the country has witnessed regional conflict fueled in part by ethnic divisions as it remained among the world’s least-developed countries. Malawi has a low life expectancy and high infant mortality. HIV/AIDS is highly prevalent.

Malaysia: A former Portuguese colony, this island nation’s former leader Mahathir Mohammad took a vociferous stand on Kashmir following the abrogation of article-370 in the region. Mohammad later admitted that ties with India had seen a dent for his Kashmir stand.

Netherlands: Netherlands, country located in northwestern Europe, also known as Holland. The capital is Amsterdam and the seat of government The Hague, which is also home to the International Court of Justice. Prostitution, “soft-drug” (marijuana and hashish) use, and euthanasia are all legal but carefully regulated in the Netherlands, which was also the first country to legalize same-sex marriage.

Portugal: Over the past decade or so Portugal is best known for football star Christiano Ronaldo. However, in the period of 15th and 16th, today referred to as the Age of Discovery, Portuguese explorers pioneered maritime exploration with the discovery of what would become Brazil (1500). It was one of the foremost colonial power in Europe. It is highly placed in rankings of moral freedom, peacefulness (democracy, press freedom, stability social progress, and prosperity (27th)

Senegal: This African nation is classified as a heavily indebted poor country, with a relatively low Human Development Index. Formed as part of the independence of French West Africa from French colonial rule, the country has a population of over 16 million.

Spain: This European nation has a great legacy of soccer with the side emerging as the winner of 2010 world cup. The covid-19 has however wrecked havoc to the country killing thousands and decimating the economy of the nation. It was a leading colonial nation during the post-medieval times.

Sweden: Sweden is known for its Bofors, the military weaponry whose purchase was ridden with allegations of a scam against the Congress. The country has taken note of India’s actions in Kashmir but continues to eye the country as a purchaser of its military equipment. Most recently the Saab fighter jets.

Tajikistan: This country known for its rich history and culture became an independent sovereign nation in 1991 after the Soviet Union disintegrated. Shortly after the independence a civil war was fought, lasting from 1992 to 1997. The country is ruled by President Emomali Rahmon, who remains power since 1994 and has been criticised by a number of non-governmental organizations for authoritarian leadership, corruption and widespread violations of human rights, including torture, arbitrary imprisonment, lack of religious freedom and other civil liberties, and worsening political repression.

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