Govt to take 15 foreign envoys minus EU on two-day visit to J&K today

Shubhajit Roy
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The envoys will be taken for a two-day visit to review the ground situation(Source: Reuters/File)

Five months after revoking Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcating the state into two Union territories, the government will take a group of 15 foreign envoys to Srinagar on Thursday, for a two-day visit to review the ground situation. However, the delegation will not comprise European Union envoys, who will be taken later, said sources.

According to government sources, EU envoys wanted to visit J&K as a group. It was not possible to accommodate all of them due to restrictions on numbers, and the plan to keep the group broad-based.

“We wanted to take a global group of envoys to J&K with only some EU ambassadors; not all EU envoys were asked to join,” said a government source.

Some EU ambassadors conveyed that the visit was taking place at too “short a notice to seek instructions from headquarters”, sources said. “It was, therefore, decided that a group of EU ambassadors will undertake a trip to J&K at a later date,” said the source.

“The group was free to interact with people, subject to security considerations. In any case, no ambassador had specifically asked to meet anyone who was detained,” said the source, responding to suggestions that the EU envoys wanted to meet detained political leaders including the three former chief ministers of J&K.

Stressing that the EU envoys have welcomed this initiative by the government, sources said any suggestion that they were not part of the group visiting J&K due to certain restrictions in the programme were “unfounded and mischievous”.

But diplomatic sources said the EU ambassadors wanted more access. Explaining the rationale for the trip, government sources said they had been receiving requests from some envoys based in Delhi. “Our consistent position has been that we may consider the request only after analysing the security situation and checking the situation on the ground with the J&K administration. Accordingly, a group of around 15 envoys based in Delhi are being taken to the UT of J&K on January 9-10 to see first-hand the efforts being made by the government to restore normalcy,” the source said.

In October, in the first visit by a foreign delegation after the government’s decision on J&K, a team of 23 MEPs (Members of European Parliament) — many from far-right parties — went to Kashmir on a two-day trip.

The MEA spokesperson, Raveesh Kumar, had then said that the MEPs had “expressed a keen desire” to see the ground situation, and their statements reflected that they got an understanding of the “how terrorism affects India, and how terrorism affects Kashmir”. He said it was a sort of a “familiarisation visit” for these MPs, who were from from different parties and different countries.

Responding to the criticism that the visit was organised by private organisations, the MEA spokesperson had said many visits by foreign dignitaries take place through non-official channels.