By floating the name of a ‘mystery woman’, who is supposed to have arranged for the European parliamentarians’ Kashmir visit, a section of the media might have tried to project the tour as a choreographed event, but it has turned out that Madi Sharma is a member of the European Economic and Social Committee, an advisory body of the European Union for which it is not unusual to organise events for the EU MPs.
Madi Sharma, the head of the Madi Group, did not make such an arrangement for the first time in her career. She had assisted in sending one such European MP delegation to the Maldives last year when it was a difficult period for the then Abdulla Yameen government.
Madi sent invites to MPs on 7 October
In the invitation the advisory body sent to the European MPs, a special meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Madi was promised along with a tour of Kashmir. The Madi Group is said to be a network of several international private sector firms and NGOs.
The copy of the email correspondence, which reached Indian media this morning, shows that on 7 October, Madi Sharma emailed the European MPs and promised them a VIP meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 28 October. The invitation included the promise of taking the MPs to Kashmir on 29 October. The press conference that followed was planned via email, too. Now people are asking who this Madi Sharma is.
Madi Sharma runs a think tank
Madi Sharma also runs an NGO Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT). According to information available on Sharma’s Twitter handle, she describes herself as a “Social Capitalist: International Business Broker, Educational Entrepreneur and Speaker”. She is believed to have invited European MPs to visit India.
The members of the EU team have met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, national security adviser Ajit Doval and Foreign Minister S Jaishankar in New Delhi. They met the commander of the 15th Corps in Srinagar on Tuesday. They met some people from Kashmir during a lunch organised by Doval in New Delhi. Then they met some local people in Srinagar.
Writer of article on Article 370
She wrote an article on Article 370, which was published in EP Today. The article was titled, “Why is Article 370 abolished and a challenge for Kashmiri women.” But even EP Today is a monthly magazine associated with the European Parliament. That is the association of Madi Sharma with the event is not on account of her heading an NGO that has nothing to do with the EU.
According to Madi’s website, WESTT is a major women’s think-tank with a global reach. It focuses on economic, environmental and social development of women. It reads, “At the political level, it also acts as a lobby for awareness on many issues but never for commercial gain.”
Of course, until now, Madi Sharma was not related to the affairs of Kashmir, but she was not associated with the Maldives before arranging for a trip of EU MPs to that country either. Now let’s look at the role of the EU advisory body she is a part of.
Brief of European Economic and Social Committee
The European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) is a consultative body of the European Union (EU) established in 1958. It is an advisory assembly comprising “social partners” like employers, employees via trade unions and representatives of various other interests. Its seat, which it shares with the Committee of the Regions, is the Jacques Delors building on Belliardstraat/Rue Belliard 99 in Brussels.
In schools of India, children studying the United Nations are familiar with the term EcoSoc, which was the former acronym for what is now referred to as the EESC. The name was changed to avoid a mix-up with the United Nations ECOSOC.
The Treaty of Rome of 1957 mandated the EESC. The idea was to unite different economic interest groups to establish a single market. The creation of this committee gave them an institution to allow their voices to be heard by the European Commission, the Council and the European Parliament. The EESC declares itself to be “a bridge between Europe and organised civil society” according to the Secretary-General: European Economic and Social Committee.
It is mandatory for the committee to be consulted on those issues stipulated in the Treaties and in all cases where the institutions deem it appropriate. The Treaty of Maastricht considerably enlarged the committee’s domain. Its influence now extends to matters such as social policy, social and economic cohesion, environment, education, health, customers protection, industry, Trans-European Networks, indirect taxation and structural funds. On certain issues, the EESC works in partnership with the Committee of the Regions.
In latest years, the committee has taken up the challenge of civil society, opening up its forum to representatives of all sectors, developing two complementary missions:
- Involving civil society organisations more in the European venture, at both national and European level,
- Boosting the role of civil society organisations in non-member countries or country groupings where the Committee is furthering structured dialogue with civil society organisations, and promoting the creation of consultative structures based on its experiences, not least in the countries applying for EU membership, the Mediterranean partner countries, African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, India, China, Latin America (Mercosur) and Brazil.