Members of the delegation of foreign envoys in Srinagar on Wednesday. (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)
As the government on Wednesday took a second batch of 25 foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir to assess the “security situation, and witness for themselves the progressive normalisation of the situation”, Afghanistan’s envoy Tahir Qadiry, who was part of the delegation, said mediapersons in the Valley have “seriously urged the government to restore internet broadband”.
Qadiry tweeted, “In our interaction with Kashmiri media outlets, media people seriously urged the govt to restore internet broadband as it is causing them so much problems to report and broadcast.”
“As a part of the outreach efforts, visit of a second group of foreign Heads of Mission is being organised.... Upon arrival, we enjoyed a #Shikara ride on Dal Lake in Srinagar. Beautiful lake and hospitable people...” he tweeted.
The delegation was supposed to go to Baramulla but had to cancel it due to bad weather.
After the shikara ride, the envoys went to the hotel on the banks of the lake and met several delegations of politicians, journalists, trade bodies and social groups to assess the situation of J&K after abrogation of special status. For the third consecutive time — following foreign diplomats’ visits to the Valley in October 2019 and January this year — the same set of local politicians, journalists and traders met the envoys.
The envoys had an hour-long meeting with a select group of journalists. A source said, “One of the women journalists told the envoys about scary conditions journalists here are working in. She drove their attention towards the recent report of the Kashmir Press Club, which accused police of harassing journalists... some reporters spoke about how the internet ban is hampering work”.
The second batch of 25 foreign diplomats, including those from Germany, Canada, France and Afghanistan, at Dal Lake in Srinagar Wednesday. (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)
The three major mainstream political parties in the Valley — National Conference, PDP, and the Congress — stayed away from the meeting involving political representatitives.
“We asked for their help in promoting (local) handicraft and tourism,” Touseef Raina, who led a group of aspiring politicians, said. “On the political situation, we said there are people who are against the abrogation (of special status) and those who are in favour. We said it would be waste of time to be hard about Article 370.”
The envoys also interacted with some social organisations, civil society groups and trade bodies. Representatives of the Valley’s biggest trade body — the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industries — said they had no information about the diplomats’ visit.
For the third consecutive time — following foreign diplomats’ visits to the Valley in October 2019 and January this year — the same set of local politicians, journalists and traders met the envoys. (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)
In a statement, the Ministry of External Affairs said, “The group is visiting Srinagar and Jammu, where they would meet representatives of civil society, including the youth from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic communities, local business and political leaders, civil administration and representatives of mainstream media. They will also receive a briefing on the development programmes being implemented, get assessment of the security situation, and witness for themselves the progressive normalisation of the situation.”
The envoys represent Afghanistan, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, the European Union, France, Germany, Republic of Guinea, Hungary, Italy, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Namibia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Rwanda, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Uganda, and Uzbekistan, the MEA stated.
The diplomats are on a two-day visit to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. (Express Photo: Shuaib Masoodi)
A group of 27 parliamentarians from the European Parliament — most of them from far-right parties — had visited Kashmir, in a government-facilitated trip, in October. The EU had distanced itself from the trip, and said it was not an official trip.