Foreign envoys interact with politicos in Srinagar

Foreign envoys interact with politicos in Srinagar

The envoys from Latin America, Africa and other countries later reached a five-star hotel here where they met scores of delegations including, politicians, journalists and civil society members. Credit: PTI

A group of 16 foreign envoys, including a US ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, had an interaction with security officials, political leaders, civil society groups and journalists, here, on Thursday.

The Delhi-based foreign envoys, who came here on a special chartered flight, are on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir to take stock of the ground situation in the region post abrogation of J&K’s special status under Article 370 on August 5 last year.

Sources said soon after their arrival at Srinagar’s technical airport, the envoys were taken directly to the army 15-Corps headquarters for a briefing about the situation in Kashmir and along the border with Pakistan. “The army commanders briefed the envoys as how Pakistan was desperate to spread terrorism and how terrorists sponsored by the neighbouring country was killing innocents,” they said.

The envoys from Latin America, Africa and other countries later reached a five-star hotel here where they met scores of delegations including, politicians, journalists and civil society members. The group was accompanied by senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry.

A delegation of politicians led by former minister Altaf Bukhari met the foreign envoys in the afternoon and presented their view about the prevailing situation in J&K. The same delegation had met J&K Lt Governor G C Murmu on Tuesday.

Former minister Ghulam Hassan Mir, who was part of the delegation, said they told the envoys that the decision to abrogate J&K special status taken by the central government on August 5 was not expected “as people didn’t want it.” 

“We also told them (envoys) that we want that Statehood of J&K be restored at the earliest,” he added.

Besides scrapping Article 370, the Center had also bifurcated the erstwhile J&K state into two union territories on August 5.

Sources said that around 20 unknown civil society members also met the foreign envoys separately and briefed them about the situation post abrogation of Article 370. “They told them (envoys) that they completely reject Pakistan’s disinformation about a ‘bloodbath’ in Kashmir and also lauded the government’s handling of the actions taken on August 5 last year without bloodshed,” they revealed.

The envoys are scheduled to hold meeting with J&K Lt Governor in Jammu on Friday. The visit comes at a time when regional political party leaders, including three former chief ministers, remain in custody.

Hundreds of politicians were detained in measures that included a complete communication lockdown in Jammu and Kashmir and massive curbs on movement after the revocation of Article 370. Some of the restrictions have been softened since then and several politicians have also been released.

The visiting envoys didn’t meet any separatist leaders during their stay in Srinagar as was the ritual during previous such visits in 1990s and 2000s. Three former chief ministers Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who are under detention since August 5 also didn’t meet the envoys.

The envoys' visit is seen as part of the government’s diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan's propaganda on the Kashmir issue. The first visit of a foreign delegation to Jammu and Kashmir since 5 August was organised by Delhi-based think tank International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, which took 23 EU MPs on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the Union Territory in October 2019.

However, the government had distanced itself from the visit with Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy informing Parliament that the European parliamentarians were on a “private visit”.

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