On September 12, the news agency Asian News International reported that India’s abrogation of Article 370, a constitutional provision that granted a measure of autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir, was supported by “European experts”. The experts were Brian Toll, described as “former director” of the European Commission and Henri Malosse, whom the agency claimed was chairman of Vocal Europe, a think tank based in Brussels, where the EU’s headquarters are located. ANI‘s story and accompanying videos were picked up by several media outlets.
Since ANI reported their comments in the context of the Kashmir dispute, it would be logical to assume that Toll and Malosse have expertise on the subject — through professional engagement or, perhaps, scholarly work.
Except they really don’t.
In fact, Toll is not even a “former director” of the European Commission as ANI claimed. Nor is Malosse chairman of Vocal Europe; he’s its “honorary chairman”.
So, who exactly are Toll and Malosse? We decided to find out.
In ANI’s video—which was republished online by Business Standard, Amar Ujala, Hindustan Times and Times Now—Malosse said the abrogation of Article 370 was necessary “when you consider the recent terrorist attack that killed 40 CRPF personnel”, referring to the Pulwama attack of February 2019. He added the move “will improve the security situation in the region. Since the move was taken, there has been no major incident in Kashmir”.
In an email, Malosse told Newslaundry that his position as “honorary chairman” of Vocal Europe does not entail any executive functions. It wouldn’t have made much difference if it did. “South Asia is not in the area of interest and competence of Vocal Europe as you can see on their website,” Malosse explained.
Henri Malosse in the ANI video.
Malosse, though, is former president of the European Economic and Social Committee, which describes its purpose as “strengthening the democratic legitimacy and effectiveness of the European Union by enabling civil society organisations from member states to express their views at European level”.
Asked if he had any expertise on the Kashmir dispute, Malosse said he visited India several times as president and member of the European Economic and Social Committee. “So I could have knowledge about Kashmir and the issues related to terrorism in India,” he added. “This engagement is not linked to Vocal Europe.”
Malosse continued: “Recently, as former president, I have worked with several think tanks like SADF where I participated in events related to the situation of Kashmir.” SADF refers to the South Asia Democratic Forum, a Brussels-based think tank that claims to be “devoted to South Asia and its relationship with the European Union in the context of a global, changing world”.
Has he produced any scholarship on Kashmir? “Before taking a position, I read a lot of books, articles about the historical situation of Kashmir,” Malosse replied. “I am a politologue, with an MBA from Sciences Po, Paris, and at the same time a historian. I am a professor at the universities of Strassburg, Corsica, Geneva … I took part in several forums on South and East Asia held in Brussels and Paris.”
Newslaundry checked WorldCat, an online catalogue of publications in libraries around the world, for any work by Molasse on any subject. The search yielded no results.
Molasse told Newslaundry his main political engagement in South Asia “has been and is in favor of the independence of Tibet”.
In ANI’s video, Toll, referred to as “former director” of the European Commission, is heard saying, “The scrapping of Article 370 is actually about giving more economic opportunities to the people in Kashmir, according to the government. Let’s us hope it works.” He added that Gilgit-Baltistan is “technically a part of India”.
The European Commission is the executive arm of the EU. Its website states that the EU’s policies are “developed and translated into policies and initiatives by the European Commission”.
Brian Toll in the ANI video.
In Toll’s case, Newslaundry found that he has never been a director at the European Commission as ANI claimed. In fact, the European Commission does not have a position of director. A web search revealed that Toll has been Policy Coordinator for Asia at the European Commission’s Directorate General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture. The commission has about 30 directorates general focussing on areas such as trade, climate action and migration.
Toll took part in a European Higher Education Fair in India in 2016 and has participated in events related to university education in India and Myanmar. He has been frequently interviewed by the Swiss media outlet Times of Geneva, speaking on politics in Pakistan and dam construction in Gilgit-Baltistan.
Like Molasse, Toll has been associated with SADF. According to his SADF profile, Toll’s tenure at the EC focused on “international cooperation and policy, particularly through the European Union’s higher education programmes”. The profile says Toll was a diplomat in Central Asia and worked in the domain of international relations in “Russian-speaking and Asian countries”.
SADF’s profile says Toll supports the think tank’s mission of “developing South Asia’s place in a changing world with democratic institutions and respect of peoples, traditions and beliefs”. Toll’s focus is to contribute to conferences, discussions and research activities “promoting the value of cultural identities, education, reconciliation and peace-building across the Indian sub-continent”.
The SADF website does not throw up any research Toll may have produced on South Asia, or specifically on Kashmir. Newslaundry sent SADF a questionnaire about Toll’s work and expertise on Kashmir. This story will be updated when the think tank responds.
Asked whether Toll had done work related to Kashmir at the European Commission, where he worked from 1993 to 2017, a spokesperson would only say that the “rules under which we manage our human resources, agreed by the European Parliament and the member states in the Council, give current and former EU officials the right to freedom of expression”.
On the Kashmir issue, the spokesperson said the commission “considers that a bilateral political solution is the only way to solve a long-lasting dispute that causes instability and insecurity in the region”.
While Toll and Molasse are indeed experts in different subjects, Newslaundry could not find any evidence to establish their expertise on the Kashmir dispute, either through professional work or scholarly research.
Yet, this is precisely how they were advertised by ANI: as “European experts” who support the Indian government’s abrogation of Article 370.
ANI’s report comes at a time when mainstream media outlets in India are being accused of toeing the Indian state’s line on the abrogation of Article 370. A profile of ANI in The Caravan magazine earlier this year argued that the news agency “has a disturbing history of producing blatant propaganda for the state”. On Kashmir, since the 1990s, it added, “ANI is among the few mainland news outlets that cover Kashmir. Most of this coverage, though, amounts to government propaganda.”
Responding to a questionnaire, ANI told Newslaundry that it stands by its story.