16 envoys from Latin American, African countries to visit J-K on Thursday

New Delhi, Jan 8 (PTI) Sixteen envoys will be travelling to Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday where they will meet civil society members and will be briefed on the security situation in the Union territory, officials said on Wednesday.

The group will primarily comprise envoys from Latin American and African countries, they said.

The European Union countries are understood to have conveyed that they would visit the Union Territory on a different date and are also believed to have stressed on meeting three former chief ministers -- Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti -- who are in detention.

The envoys travelling on Thursday will meet civil society members and receive a briefing on the security situation from various agencies, the officials said.

On the same day, the envoys will be taken to Jammu, where they will meet Lt Governor G C Murmu and other officials before returning to the national capital the next day, they added.

Sources said envoys of a number of countries had requested the government for a visit to Kashmir to get a first-hand account of the situation prevailing in the Valley following the abrogation of provisions of Article 370 there.

The move will be part of India's diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan's propaganda against it on the Kashmir issue.

India had reached out to the P5 countries and all the world capitals, putting forward its perspective on its decision to abrogate Article 370 and bifurcation of the state into two Union territories.

After India announced its decision to reorganise J&K on August 5 last year, Pakistan reacted angrily and mounted a major diplomatic offensive against New Delhi on the issue. Pakistan has also downgraded diplomatic ties by expelling the Indian envoy.

This will be the second visit of a foreign delegation to Kashmir since August 5, 2019, the day when the Centre withdrew special status of the state and also bifurcated it into union territories -- Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Earlier, a delegation of 23 EU MPs was taken on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the Union territory by the International Institute for Nonaligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank.

However, the government had distanced itself from the visit of the delegation and Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy informed Parliament that the European parliamentarians were on a 'private visit'. PTI SKL ABS IJT

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