The Ministry of External Affairs Thursday said the visit by European Union parliamentarians to Kashmir does not amount to “internationalisation” of the issue and such delegations do not necessarily have to come through official channels.
In its first remark on the visit of the unofficial delegation of 23 European Parliament MPs to Kashmir, for which the government came under severe criticism from the Opposition, who called it third party intervention, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the important point was whether such an engagement served larger national interest.
“In the case of visit of Members of European Parliament to India, it was brought to attention of govt that this delegation is going to visit India. MEPs who visited India had expressed a keen desire to know about India, it was like a familiarisation visit,” Raveesh Kumar said.
The visit was facilitated by a Delhi think tank called International Institute for Non Aligned Studies, and did not have the direct involvement of the Ministry of External Affairs.
Kumar also asserted that the visit of the MEPs to Kashmir was not ceding of ground on Kashmir. “We feel that such exchanges are part of people-to-people contacts. The visit was not at all internationalisation of Kashmir issue,” the MEA spokesperson said.
“They (MEPs) belonged to a spectrum of views from different countries of Europe and different political parties. Meetings were therefore accordingly facilitated as has been done on many previous occasions,” he said.
The 23-member EU delegation wrapped up their two-day visit to Kashmir Wednesday. At a press briefing, the delegation termed the dilution of Article 370 an internal issue of India and said they stood by the country in its fight against 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 the killing of five innocent labourers by terrorists. We condemn it,” said Henri Maloose from France. Several of the EU MPs belong to right and far-right parties.
Opposition leaders criticised the government for the “organised” and “sponsored” trip of the EU MPs to get a “report in favour of the government”.
“The media from Delhi is not allowed to go to Kashmir. Parliamentarians are not allowed… So while local leaders are either not allowed to move around in Kashmir or are behind bars and Opposition leaders are not allowed to visit Kashmir, parliamentarians of the EU, particularly right-wing MPs, are being sponsored. Behind all this is the government,” leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said on the day of the visit.
Left parties, too, continued to target the government. CPI’s Rajya Sabha MP Binoy Viswam wrote to PM Narendra Modi requesting that he be allowed to visit J&K since a foreign delegation was given a “red carpet’’ entry.