The Ministry of External Affairs Thursday said the visit of 15 foreign envoys, including the United States, to Jammu and Kashmir was facilitated by the Government of India, the objective of which was to show first-hand the efforts made by the Centre to normalise the situation. Visiting envoys were from the US, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Maldives, Morocco, Fiji, Norway, Philippines, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Togo, and Guyana.
The MEA denied that this visit by envoys is a ‘guided tour’. “Criticism that this is a guided tour is unfounded,” said Kumar.
This is the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the Jammu and Kashmir’s special status was revoked by diluting Article 370 and made into a union territory.
The Delhi-based envoys, who came here on a special chartered flight, landed at Srinagar’s technical airport and were taken directly to the army cantonment for a briefing. Top officials from the newly-carved out union territory of Jammu and Kashmir received the delegation.
During a press briefing here in the national capital, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar was asked why European Union envoys were not part of the visit to Jammu and Kashmir, to which he replied: “EU envoys wanted to visit Kashmir in a group. We did not extend invite to all.”
Similar visit to Kashmir, said Kumar, can be organised in future including by EU envoys. “We wanted this group to be of manageable size and make it broad based representing different geographical regions. When we approached them they welcomed the decision. Our understanding is that they wanted to visit in a group. You’re aware, on many issues they take group position. Invitation wasn’t sent to all members because it would have made the delegation too big,” added Kumar.
Asked about political leaders who met the group, Kumar said the visit by the envoys to Kashmir is not yet over.
This visit by envoys is part of the government’s diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan’s propaganda on the Kashmir issue. The envoys are expected to meet Lt Governor G C Murmu as well as civil society members.