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Thursday, Dec 12, 2019

MEA defends EU lawmakers’ Kashmir visit after row

This is the first time that the foreign ministry has spoken on the visit of MEPs; the visit has been criticised by the Opposition, including the Congress on multiple counts.

india Updated: Nov 01, 2019 03:37 IST
Neeraj Chauhan
Neeraj Chauhan
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
The delegation of European Union (EU) MPs visit Dal Lake, in Srinagar.
The delegation of European Union (EU) MPs visit Dal Lake, in Srinagar.(ANI)
         

Attacked by the opposition parties for facilitating a controversial visit of a group of European lawmakers, the ministry of external affairs on Thursday defended itself, denying that facilitating this visit to Jammu and Kashmir would internationalize the issue. It also claimed that not all the diplomatic engagements are on official invites.

The ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, in the weekly media briefing, said, “I think there is a very clear distinction between imparting an international understanding of the situation and internationalizing the matter. Putting across a point of view of the country is not the same as internationalizing the matter”.

“Engagement with the diplomatic community is not internationalizing the issue. We are supposed to share our perspective with different groups of people. We feel that this is in the larger interest,” he said.

This is the first time that the foreign ministry has spoken on the visit of MEPs; the visit has been criticised by the Opposition, including the Congress on multiple counts. Opposition parties have complained that the government has allowed 23 foreign lawmakers visit J&K but stopped Indian politicians from doing so. They have also raised questions about the organizer of the visit and argued that the whole thing would end up internationalizing the Kashmir issue.

The EU MPs addressed a news conference in the valley on Wednesday during which they condemned the terror attack in which six migrant labourers were killed and praised the Narendra Modi government for its efforts in fighting terrorism. The EU has distanced itself from the visit saying the MPs were in India in their private capacity.

Asked if more such delegations could be allowed in J&K in the future, Raveesh Kumar said the “intent, content (of the delegation) as well as the ground situation (in the region)” would be weighed by the centre before considering any such visit.

Asserting that it is MEA’s mandate to engage with people from different backgrounds and countries irrespective of who has invited them, Kumar said, “The MPs, belonging to different spectrums of European political parties, expressed keen desire to understand how terrorism is affecting India and how it is a challenge for the country. Meetings were accordingly facilitated. We have arranged such visits/meetings in the past and will continue to do so. It is part of the foreign policy objective to promote people to people contacts”.

Kumar further added that after the visit, the EU MPs have a fair understanding of the ground situation.

“You must have heard their statements after the visit. They very clearly reflected that they got some understanding about the ground situation. They got a sense of the threat of terrorism or how terrorism poses a threat to India and especially the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” Kumar said.