Govt likely to take 2nd batch of envoys to J&K this week
The group will be comparatively larger than the batch of 15 diplomats that travelled to Kashmir during January 9-10 — the first such visit organised by the government since Article 370 of the Constitution was nullified and Jammu and Kashmir split into two union territories.Updated: Feb 11, 2020 03:06 IST
A second group of foreign diplomats, including representatives of European Union (EU) states, is expected to visit Kashmir this week to witness the government’s efforts to restore normalcy following the revocation of the region’s special status last year.
People familiar with developments said on Monday the group will be comparatively larger than the batch of 15 diplomats that travelled to Kashmir during January 9-10 — the first such visit organised by the government since Article 370 of the Constitution was nullified and Jammu and Kashmir split into two union territories.
The contours of the upcoming visit will be similar to the first one, and the diplomats are expected to meet delegations comprising former legislators and ministers, panchayat members and social activists in Srinagar and Jammu.
They will be briefed on security matters, including the situation along the Line of Control (LoC), by officials of the army and security agencies in Srinagar, the people cited above said. There is a possibility the group could also be taken to a few other places in the Kashmir Valley, they added.
Authorities received requests from several foreign missions to visit Kashmir since the 15 diplomats travelled to the region last month, the people said. “The second group will have diplomats from several European nations and will include a mix of large and small nations from different regions of the world,” said a person who declined to be named.
The group, expected to include diplomats from key EU states such as Germany and France and from Latin American nations, will travel to Kashmir before the weekend. “We have been told to remain ready to receive another delegation of envoys after February12. It will be like the previous visit,” said an official in Srinagar who didn’t want to be identified.
There is a possibility the group will be taken around markets in Srinagar so that the diplomats can see for themselves the situation had improved over the past six months, officials said.
People from villages close to the LoC, including panchayat members, could be among those called in to meet the diplomats, the officials added.
“We have not yet received any invitation but we expect we will get an invite like the previous meeting with diplomats. But it’s an exercise where we have to wait for the envoys for two hours and meet them for 15 minutes and convey them the Kashmir story. This meeting will be the same,” said a youth activist who participated in a meeting when the diplomats visited last month.
However, it is unlikely the diplomats will meet leaders of mainstream political parties, including two MPs and Srinagar mayor Junaid Azim Mattu, or detained former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah.
The government has been encouraged after what were described as successful visits by two Union ministers last month — law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had tea at a stall in north Kashmir’s Baramulla town and minority affairs minister Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi visited Lal Chowk in Srinagar.
The first group to visit Kashmir included US ambassador Kenneth Juster, and envoys and diplomats from South Korean, Norway, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, the Maldives, the Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo.
Though the missions of 27 EU states had made a request for a joint visit to Kashmir, the envoys of some European countries are understood to have agreed to join the upcoming trip.
Their inclusion is significant as external affairs minister S Jaishankar is set to visit Germany to attend the Munich Security Conference during February 15-16, before travelling to Brussels on February 17 for meetings with EU officials. India’s new citizenship law, the situation in Kashmir and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s expected participation in the India-EU Summit on March 13 are among the topics that will come up during his interactions.