The unofficial delegation of 23 European Union MPs, who visited Jammu and Kashmir, Wednesday said Article 370 is India’s internal matter and they were not here to interfere in Indian politics. It also identified terrorism as the major factor for instability in Kashmir which is accounting for the lives of innocent people in the Valley.
In a press briefing, the delegation regretted the killing of five non-Kashmiri workers by suspected militants in Kulgam on Tuesday, saying that all problems of Kashmir are linked to terrorism. “If we talk about Article 370 it is India’s internal matter. What concerns us is terrorism which is a global menace and we should stand with India in fighting it. There was an unfortunate incident of killing of five innocent labourers by terrorists. We condemn it,” said Henri Malosse from France.
Malosse also said he has been apprised of Pakistan sending terrorists across border to destabilise the area. “First of all, this visit in my view is of very very high importance. In Kashmir, terrorism is severe and this is a global question. Police and army have apprised how terrorists have been sent from Pakistan,” he said.
“Kashmir is backward because of the situation. The message we got from the people we met was that there is hope that the change in status will help reverse the situation,” he added.
The delegation said that they do not want to see Kashmir becoming another Afghanistan. “Terrorists can destroy a country. I have been to Afghanistan and Syria and I have seen what terrorism has done. We stand with India in its fight against terrorism,” Thierry Mariani from France said.
The delegation also said their intention was not to interfere in Indian politics and that they visited the state to meet the common people. “We have no interest in Indian politics. We just wanted to meet the common people. Coming to Kashmir was a pleasant experience. Work is progressing in the right direction here. People of Kashmir want peace and development. They want schools and hospitals.”
Newton Dunn from the UK described the visit as an “eye-opener”, adding that the delegation would advocate what we have seen on ground zero. “We belong to a place Europe which is peaceful after years of fighting. And we want to see India becoming the most peaceful country in the world. And for that we need to stand by India in its fight against global terrorism. This visit has been an eye-opener and we would definitely advocate what we have seen on ground zero,” he told reporters.
Another MP, Ryszard Czarnecki from Poland, criticised the international media for being ‘biased’. “The international media coverage seems biased. Once we go back to our countries we will inform them of what we saw,” he added.
The delegation expressed hope that the change in status will improve the situation of the state. “We had a short visit, but we were concerned about the future of Kashmir. The state has all the elements to become a dynamic region of India. Kashmir was backwards before (abrogation of Article 370). There is now hope that the change in status will help reverse the situation,” an MP said.
The MPs were part of the first foreign delegation visiting the Jammu and Kashmir after since the revocation of J&K’s special status by the Centre. However, sources in the European Union mission in New Delhi said the MPs are not an official delegation of the EU, but are travelling in their private capacity.
On Tuesday, they were given a guarded tour of the Valley even as a shutdown was being observed by local residents amid clashes with security forces. The delegation was also handed over a document titled ‘Briefing notes and background on Kashmir’ by the government, providing them with a condensed account of events that unfolded in the Valley over the past three months.
The delegation was also briefed by state government officials for two hours over a dinner meeting, which was attended by state Chief Secretary B V R Subrahmanyan and DGP Dilbag Singh.
Meanwhile, the PR exercise by the BJP government and lamented that the Indian MPs were not allowed to visit the Valley. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad Tuesday said he does not have any objection to the European Union leaders’ delegation visiting Jammu and Kashmir. “What I object to, is that the MPs of this country are not being allowed to go to Jammu and Kashmir.”
The delegation originally comprised of 27 leaders but four of them returned to their respective countries. They had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at his residence Monday, and was briefed separately by National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
(With inputs from PTI)