Six months after J&K’s special status was revoked and the state bifurcated, the Union government is planning to take a second batch of foreign envoys to the Union Territory this week, a month after the first batch went there to see the situation on ground.
The Indian Express has learnt that the group is likely to visit J&K on Wednesday and Thursday.
A source said, “Since the last visit of envoys to J&K on January 9-10, we have received several requests from foreign envoys based in India to be part of the next visit to the UT organised by the government. In this context, a group of envoys from different geographical regions will visit J&K soon.”
This group is expected to have some envoys from the European countries, since no EU envoy was part of the first batch.
The envoys’ visit comes in the wake of External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar’s visit to Germany for the Munich Security Conference (February 14-16) and also Brussels, where he is likely to meet EU leadership – both in the Commission and the Parliament.
Jaishankar’s visit is likely to be followed up by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Brussels on March 13.
Last month, the government had arranged a trip for 15 foreign diplomats, including the US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster, to J&K.
The proposed visit comes after the EU Parliament last month deferred a vote on a joint draft resolution on Kashmir and CAA, that India called a “diplomatic victory.” The voting is likely to take place in the next plenary sitting of the European Parliament in March-April.
Last month, EU envoys wanted to visit J&K as a group, which was not possible to accommodate due to restrictions in numbers and to keep the group broad-based.
“We wanted to take a global group of envoys to J &K with only some EU Ambassadors, and not all EU envoys were asked to join,” a government source said.
This time, some EU envoys have been invited, and they will be part of the delegation.
On December 10, the EU’s envoy had said that EU was concerned over restrictions on “fundamental freedom” of people in Kashmir and called for steps like restoration of communication network and essential services to bring back normalcy in the Valley.
EU’s Ambassador to India Ugo Astuto had said that the European Union understands India’s security concerns, but insisted that steps should be taken to restore normalcy in the Valley, adding the bloc’s views on the matter remained unchanged since August. “We did convey our concerns about the situation on the ground, especially restrictions on fundamental freedom. It is crucial that freedom of movement and means of communication are restored as well as the essential services,” Astuto had said.
“We want the government to take steps to restore normalcy in the region…we have understanding about India’s security concerns. Our position has been consistent and unchanged,” he said.
A group of 27 members from the European Parliament – most of them from far-right parties – had visited Kashmir in a government-facilitated trip in October last year. The EU had distanced itself from the trip, and had said that it was not an official trip.
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