Govt to take EU members to J&K to give 'clear view'

 A view of Lal Chowk during restrictions in Srinagar. PTI Photo

A day before his government is set to take 27 members of European Parliament on a tour to Jammu and Kashmir, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told them that they should return with “clear view” of “development and governance priorities” of the region.

The 27 MEPs (Members of European Parliament) included six each from Poland and France, five from UK, four from Italy, two from Germany and one each from Czech Republic, Spain, Slovakia and Spain. Most of them are affiliated to political parties known for right-leaning ideology and agenda. Sources told the DH that all of them were on private visits to New Delhi arranged by a non-government organization.

Their visit to J&K, however, is being facilitated by the Government.

This is the first time New Delhi is allowing a foreign delegation to visit Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) after Modi Government on August 5 stripped the state of its special status and moved to reorganize it into two Union Territories. Though the majority of the international community, including the European Union (EU), endorsed India's position that its moves on J&K were its “internal affairs” and “sovereign decisions”, New Delhi did draw 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 27 MEPs (Members of European Parliament) included six each from Poland and France, five from UK, four from Italy, two from Germany and one each from Czech Republic, Spain, Slovakia and Spain. Many of them are affiliated to political parties known for right-leaning ideology and agenda.

The European Parliament is the legislative branch of the 28-nation EU.

The MEPs called on Prime Minister at his official residence in New Delhi on Tuesday.

Modi argued for “zero tolerance” to terrorism while addressing the MEPs. Taking a not-so-veiled jibe at Pakistan for exporting terror to India, Prime Minister told the MEPs that “urgent action” must be taken against “all those who support or sponsor terrorists or support such activities and organizations or use terrorism as a state policy”.

He said that India’s relationship with the EU was based on shared interests and common commitment to democratic values. He said that the visit of the MEPs should give them “a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”, apart from giving them “a clear view of the development and governance priorities of the region”.

Modi's National Security Advisor Ajit Doval too briefed the MEPs sought to counter Pakistan's campaign opposing India's decisions on J&K. Sources quoted him telling the MEPs that New Delhi had ended the special status granted to J&K in accordance with the temporary provisions of the Article 370 of the Constitution because it was helping Pakistan promote secessionist campaign and terrorism against India. He told them that the special status had been hindering the application of progressive laws of India in J&K.

Doval also told the MEPs that the mobile and landline telephones were working in J&K, hospitals were functional and restrictions on movement had been lifted. He also hosted the MEPs for a lunch, which was attended by some J&K leaders, including former Deputy Chief Minister of the state, Muzaffar Baig, former People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari as well as some newly-elected Block Development Council (BDC) members in the state.

The European Parliament had a plenary debate on the situation in Kashmir on September 18. Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said that the EU remained 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,” she said in the speech delivered during the debate on her behalf by Tytti Tuppurainen, Finnish Minister for European Affairs.

Since August 5, New Delhi has not been allowing foreign journalists or Special Rapporteurs of the United Nations Human Rights Council, to visit J&K. It has earlier this month turned down a request by United States Congressman, Chris Van Hollen, to visit Srinagar. During a hearing by a sub-committee of the American House Foreign Affairs Committee in Washington D.C. on October 21, several US lawmakers said that New Delhi should allow foreign journalists as well as a delegation of the American Congress to visit J&K.

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