Govt to organise visits to Kashmir for EU, ASEAN envoys, first such move after August 5
The first batch of some 20 envoys and senior diplomats was expected to travel to Srinagar as early as this week.Updated: Jan 07, 2020 23:25 IST
The government intends to take groups of foreign envoys and senior diplomats to Kashmir in the coming weeks, thereby meeting the world community’s key request to be allowed into the region to assess the situation there, people familiar with developments said on Tuesday.
The government’s plan is to take groups of senior diplomats representing different regions, including West Asia, and groupings such as the European Union (EU) and Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) to Kashmir. These will be the first such visits organised by the government for diplomats since Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked last August, the people cited above said.
The first batch of some 20 envoys and senior diplomats was expected to travel to Srinagar as early as this week but the leak of the dates for the trip in the media has triggered a rethink within government circles because of concerns that a shutdown or protests could be organised to coincide with the visit, said two people who declined to be identified.
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The government’s plan was to organise the visits quietly, without any fanfare, and to allow the diplomats to interact with grassroots politicians, local businessmen, academics and journalists. The ministries of external affairs, home affairs and defence and the army were involved in planning the visits and organising the logistics and security, the people said.
The first batch of diplomats was to be briefed on the security situation and Pakistan’s role in fomenting unrest and backing cross-border terrorism by the army and security agencies in Srinagar, the people said. The batch was also expected to travel to Jammu to meet Lt Gov GC Murmu and senior officials, they added.
Officials in Srinagar, who declined to be named, said the delegations will be hosted by the Jammu and Kashmir government during their stay.
“Yes, a delegation will be coming to Kashmir this month and will be hosted by the government,” said a senior officer privy to the details. The officials said the delegation will staying at one of the high end hotels close to the Dal Lake, which will also be the venue for most of the meetings.
The EU mission in New Delhi is discussing with the external affairs ministry a planned visit for envoys of EU member states, such as France and Germany, the dates for which are yet to be fixed, said two diplomats of European countries who declined to be identified. Diplomats from the EU states were not part of the first batch.
It is believed the EU diplomats are keen on greater access to Kashmiri political leaders, civil society organisations and the public and to be allowed to visit more locations and these issues are part of the ongoing discussions.
This is being done to ensure that their visit does not face the sort of criticism that was directed towards a controversial trip to Kashmir in October by a group of some 20 Members of the European Parliament (MEPs). That trip was organised by the International Institute for Nonaligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank, and it later emerged that many of the MEPs were from far-right parties.
The EU had distanced itself from the visit by the MEPs and minister of state for home G Kishan Reddy too told Parliament they were on a “private visit”.
Several key members of the EU, including Germany, have described the communications blackout and security lockdown in Kashmir as “not sustainable” and made several requests for their diplomats to be allowed into the region.
On August 5 last, the government scrapped Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and decided to split it into the union territories of Ladakh, and Jammu and Kashmir. Top political leaders, including three former chief ministers, continue to be detained.
The diplomats are set to visit at a time when business activities have resumed after four months and the government has restored internet facilities at hospitals and some offices. The Kashmir Valley had observed a shutdown during the visit of the MEPs, who had met only people close to the administration and security forces.