A group of 24 diplomats from foreign missions, including the European Union, arrived in Srinagar to visit Kashmir and Jammu regions in the Union Territory.
Foreign diplomats from Chile, Brazil, Cuba, Bolivia, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Bangladesh, Malawi, Eritrea, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Malaysia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and the European Union are on the visit.
The latest visit of foreign envoys comes in the backdrop of District Development Council polls, which saw huge participation and restoration of 4G mobile internet in entire region after 18 months, which many see as a return of full normalcy in the Union Territory.
This is the first visit by foreign diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic. Two batches of foreign diplomats had earlier visited J-K in January and February last year after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
In January last year, envoys of 15 countries including the then US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster and diplomats from Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Niger, Nigeria, Morocco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh and Peru visited Jammu and Kashmir to see first-hand the efforts being made by the government in the region.
In February last year, 25 foreign diplomats, including those from Germany, Canada, France and Afghanistan, visited Jammu and Kashmir to witness the ground situation in the region.
Most of the DDC members ‘locked’, not allowed to meet EU led delegation alleges DDC vice-chairperson
The District Development Council (DDC) members from Budgam, who were scheduled to meet the visiting foreign envoys today at Magam, have been put ‘under detention’ and are not being allowed to move outside.
Vice-chairperson Nazir Ahmad Jahra said that six National Conference (NC) DDC members have been put under detention at Shoray-e-Afaq while one has been kept at a local hotel.
He said that two DDC members from Peoples Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) have been kept at home and no one is being allowed to move outside.
Jahra said only few DDC members including the DDC chairperson were allowed to meet the envoys, adding that other members should have also been allowed to meet the delegation.
He also said that they have been locked from the last three days. “We are being treated as thieves,” he said.
EU led delegation visit: Central Kashmir’s Magam town observes shutdown
Lal Chowk, the commercial nerve centre of Kashmir’s main city Srinagar, observed a shutdown on Wednesday as a delegation of foreign envoys, including ambassadors and diplomats from the European Union, arrived in the city. Markets in the city’s central hub were shut and traffic maintained a thin movement. Several parts of Srinagar’s downtown also remained shut while government forces’ personnel were deployed in the Nowhatta area. The security bandobast was heavy and a large number of the government forces’ personnel patrolled the city.
A complete was being observed in the Magam town of central Kashmir’s Budgam district even as a group of 24 diplomats from foreign missions, who arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday visited the town block.
All shops and business establishments in the area remained shut while traffic movement remained skeletal.
Meanwhile, a traditional welcome was accorded to the EU led delegation by Panchayat and Block representatives. Sources told that visiting delegation were welcomed by the District Development Council (DDC) Chairman, Nazir Ahmad Khan and other panchayat representatives. Thereafter, Nazir Khan also addressed the delegation.
They said that diplomats were briefed on Panchayati Raj and grievance redressal through Back to Villages and Block. The Block and Panchayat representatives were all praise for the government to bring governance at the doorstep of the people.
Official sources said that French delegation Emmanuel Lenain and Italian delegation Vincenzo de Luca interacted with locals as well.
NARRATIVES OF POLITICIANS ON EU VISIT
National Conference leader Omar Abdullah said the visit served no purpose as the delegation will be allowed to meet “only hand-picked” individuals.
“We’ve seen these guided tours in the past particularly, in the immediate aftermath of August 5, 2019,” he is reported to have told.“If this proposed delegation is going to do the same thing, this visit will be as pointless as previous ones.”
Peoples Democratic Party President Mehbooba Mufti had also mocked the government for planning the visit, asking officials how can the security forces ensure the delegation’s safety, when they cannot provide security to the locals.
Senior Congress leader Saifuddin Soz said the visit by the envoys takes place almost every year and is a futile exercise as the government has no benefit from it.
“The envoys come here and enjoy the courtesies of the government and go back. Only some of them read the truth behind this exercise. Government of India has advantage of this exercise, it is a futile exercise. It would be better that the government opens a dialogue with the mainstream parties of Kashmir,” Soz said.
Hurriyat Conference led by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq said the visit of the envoys was a curated tour for misleading the world.
“A curated tour of foreign dignitaries to showcase ‘normalcy’ in the valley to the outside world is misleading. People’s spontaneous strike, the only means of protest left to them, speaks volumes to the world of what people feel and want,” the amalgam said in a statement.
Jammu and Kashmir Ittihadul Muslimeen (JKIM) president Maulana Masroor Ansari termed the delegation’s visit to Kashmir as a “futile” move.
The delegation will visit Jammu today where they will interact with LG Manoj Sinha besides other government officials. This is the first visit by foreign diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. Two batches of foreign diplomats had earlier visited Jammu and Kashmir in January and February last year when there was internet gag in the valley in wake of abrogation of special status of Jammu and Kashmir.