Govt to take 15 foreign envoys to visit J&K, EU to skip

The visit is being arranged as the government has been “receiving requests from some envoys based in (New) Delhi” for a visit to the Union Territory. Credit: PTI

Even as the government is taking a group of 15 foreign envoys based here to Srinagar for a two-day tour commencing on Thursday, no one representing any of the European Union (EU) member-nations will be among them.

The government is taking the representatives of 15 foreign envoys to Srinagar so that could they have a first-hand assessment of the efforts being made by it to bring the situation in Jammu and Kashmir to normal, sources in New Delhi said on Wednesday.

The visit is being arranged as the government has been “receiving requests from some envoys based in (New) Delhi” for a visit to the Union Territory.

The delegation of envoys, who will visit J&K on Thursday and Friday, will not have any diplomat representing the government of any country in Europe.

The government was keen to take a group to Srinagar. The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) sent out an invitation to the High Commissions and Embassies of some of the EU member nations, but not to all.

The top diplomats of the EU member nations conveyed to the MEA that they would like to visit J&K as a group, which would include envoys of all the countries in Europe. The MEA, however, found that it was not possible to accommodate all the EU member-nations in the group “due to restrictions in numbers and the need to keep the group broad-based”.

The envoys of some of the EU nations conveyed to the MEA that they would need some more time to seek instructions from the headquarters before accepting the government's invitation.

It was finally decided that a group of EU ambassadors would visit J&K separately at a later date, sources said.

This is the first time New Delhi is allowing official representatives of foreign governments to visit Srinagar since August 5, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government initiated the process to strip J&K of its special status and reorganise the state into two Union Territories.

The foreign envoys will meet civil society leaders and traders in Srinagar. 

Some of the envoys of the EU member nations were purportedly hesitant to accept the invitation from the government for a “guided tour” to J&K. They wanted the MEA to let them move around freely, meet local people as well as some of the detained political leaders and activists.

The MEA, however, underlined that the visit was being arranged in such a way that the visiting foreign envoys would feel free to interact with people subject to security considerations.

Sources said that no foreign envoy had specifically asked to meet anyone who has been detained.

The move is aimed at dismissing accusation against the Modi government of violating human rights in J&K.

Though the majority of the international community, including the EU, had endorsed India's position that its moves on J&K had been its “internal affairs” and “sovereign decisions”, New Delhi had drawn flak for detention of a large number of political leaders and activists, communication blackout and restrictions imposed on citizens of J&K before, on and after August 5.

The government had on October 29 and 30 facilitated a visit by 23 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) — mostly affiliated to political parties known for right-leaning ideology and agenda — to J&K. Theirs had not been an official delegation of the EU though. They all had come on private visits to India, organised by a non-governmental organisation.

They, however, met the prime minister and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval before travelling to Srinagar.

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