25 envoys arrive in Jammu and Kashmir on 2-day visit to assess situation
This is the second batch of diplomats allowed into Kashmir by the government since the erstwhile state’s special status was revoked last August and it was split into two Union Territories.Updated: Feb 13, 2020 02:22 IST
A group of 25 diplomats, including the envoys of Germany, France and the EU, arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday for a two-day trip aimed at allowing them to assess the situation in Kashmir and interact with local traders, grassroots politicians, and activists.
This is the second batch of diplomats allowed into Kashmir by the government since the erstwhile state’s special status was revoked last August and it was split into two Union Territories. As with the first group that visited during January 9-10, the diplomats did not meet representatives of mainstream political parties such as the Peoples Democratic Party and the National Conference.
The group, which has 21 envoys and four deputy heads of missions, landed in Srinagar amid tight security in the morning. The group was taken for a ride in traditional shikaras on the Dal Lake after authorities called off a plan to fly them to the northern district of Baramulla in helicopters because of inclement weather.
The delegation interacted with groups of politicians, civil society activists and journalists approved by the government. They also met a group of traders and entrepreneurs to discuss the status of business and tourism.
The external affairs ministry described the visit as part of “outreach efforts”. It said in a statement that the group is visiting Srinagar and Jammu to meet civil society representatives from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic groups, business and political leaders, and the civil administration.
The diplomats will be briefed about development programmes, get an assessment of the security situation and “witness for themselves the progressive normalisation of the situation,” the statement said.
The group includes French envoy Emmanuel Lenain, German ambassador Walter Lindner, European Union ambassador Ugo Astuto and Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel. The other diplomats are from Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Mexico, Italy, the Netherlands, Namibia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Hungary, Tajikistan, Bulgaria, Guinea, Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda, Poland and New Zealand.
“We are here to see how things are,” said Danish ambassador Freddy Svane. Others said they were here as tourists. “Kashmir is a beautiful place. We are just here as tourists,” said Dominican Republic ambassador Frank Hans Dannenberg Castellanos.
Afghan chargé d’affaires Tahir Qadiry noted he had seen schools and shops open on the drive from the airport. “On a tour of Jammu & Kashmir, [we are here] to see first-hand the situation ourselves... It is great to see people on the way we came in... people going to schools and shops open,” he said. Schools in the Kashmir Valley have seen sparse attendance since last August.
Qadiry tweeted that journalists who interacted with the diplomats called on the government to fully restore the internet as it is affecting their work.
Prominent businessman M Ashraf Mir said, “What formula does the government have for the prosperity of the state? We want revival of everything, economy as well as politics...”.
A group of leaders of the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) also met the group. “Our delegation told them Kashmiris want change. We are not concerned if political leaders are in prison but we are concerned about development...We want elections to be conducted soon...,” said JD-U leader GN Shaheen.
Iltija Mufti, daughter of detained former CM Mehbooba Mufti, criticised the visit .