Business Standard

European lawmakers to visit Kashmir; PM, NSA brief them on situation


Press Trust of India New Delhi
In the first visit by a foreign delegation to Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370, a group of 27 European lawmakers will travel there on Tuesday, a major diplomatic outreach initiative by the government to counter Pakistan's narrative on the situation in the valley by allowing these leaders to "see things for themselves".
Ahead of their two-day Kashmir visit, these Members of European Parliamentarians (MEPs) also met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who categorically told them that an urgent action was needed against those supporting and sponsoring terrorism and asserted that there should be zero tolerance for terrorism.
National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Monday briefed these MEPs on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, constitutional changes made in the status of Jammu and Kashmir with the revocation of Article 370 and the situation in the valley.
Doval also hosted a lunch for the European lawmakers. Those present also included some Kashmiri leaders, including former deputy chief minister of J&K Muzaffar Baig, former People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari, some newly-elected Block Development Council (BDC) members in the state as also Sandeep Chattoo, co-owner of Real Kashmir Football Club.
This is the first visit by a foreign delegation to the valley after the government abrogated Article 370 in August and comes barely weeks after the European Parliament plenary debate on the situation in Kashmir, during which High Representative/Vice-President expressed concern over the situation there.
"We remain concerned about the situation on the ground, with its restrictions on fundamental freedoms. It is crucial that freedom of movement and means of communication are fully restored as well as access to all essential services.
"The High Representative conveyed these concerns to the Indian Minister for External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, during their meeting in Brussels on 30 August,"said Tytti Tuppurainen, Finnish Minister for European Affairs on behalf of High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini on September 18.
However, officials here feel the visit will provide an opportunity to these lawmakers to "see things for themselves" instead of falling prey to Pakistan's "false narrative".
As per sources, the delegation will meet J&K administration officials and locals in the valley. During the two-day visit, they are also likely to call on the Governor and interact with the media.
The delegation includes Italy's Fulvio Martusciello, UK's David Richard Bull, Italy's Gianna Gancia, France's Julie Lechanteux, Czech Republic's Tomas Zdechovsky, Slovakia's Peter Pollak and Germany's Nicolas Fest.
"It (abrogation of Article 370) is India's internal matter as Kashmir is its part. It is the prerogative of Indian government to take internal decisions. We are with India on this," Zdechovsky told PTI.
In his article in the European Parliament's monthly newspaper last month, Zdechovsky said the abrogation of Article 370 will help in rooting out several terrorist organisations operating in Kashmir.
"Following the article I received many hate mails from Pakistan," he said.
Advocating an approach of dialogue, Pollak said, "Both India and Pakistan should talk to avoid escalation in the region."

Another lawmaker said the briefing by Doval was very "informative" and gave a perspective on the entire issue.
The visit is also expected to take some heat off the government, which is being criticised by some foreign leaders, including certain US lawmakers, for imposition of restrictions in the valley as well as not for allowing international organisations to travel there.
Last week, a US Congressional panel questioned state department officials on the situation in Kashmir with some lawmakers expressing concern over the situation. AS many as six US lawmakers -- David Cicilline, Dina Titus, Andy Levin, Susan Wild, Chrissy Houlahan, and James McGovern -- also wrote a letter to

Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, claiming that the picture portrayed by India in the valley is different from the one being told to them by their constituents.
"We believe true transparency can only be achieved when journalists and members of Congress are allowed free access to the region. We encourage India to open Jammu and Kashmir to both domestic and foreign journalists, and other international visitors, in the interest of open media and increased communication," they said in the letter.

Disclaimer: No Business Standard Journalist was involved in creation of this content

Don't miss the most important news and views of the day. Get them on our Telegram channel

First Published: Oct 28 2019 | 7:00 PM IST

Explore News