A group of 15 foreign envoys arrived in Srinagar on Thursday for a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats ever since the revocation of the state’s special status followed by its bifurcation into two Union Territories in August last year.
US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster along with envoys from 15 other countries arrived by a special chartered flight at Srinagar’s technical airport, where they were received by top officials, PTI reported.
The envoys are scheduled to visit Jammu, the winter capital of the newly-created Union Territory, for an overnight stay. They are also expected to meet Lt Governor G C Murmu as well as civil society members.
The Congress, meanwhile, has accused the government of “double standards” in allowing foreign diplomats to visit Kashmir, while restricting Indian politicians. “We demand that the government allows unfettered access to J&K to all politicians, and not resort to guided tours for envoys,” the party said.
The delegation, apart from the US, includes diplomats from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, and Nigeria, among others. However, the delegation will not comprise European Union envoys, who will be taken later, said sources.
According to government sources, EU envoys wanted to visit J&K as a group. It was not possible to accommodate all of them due to restrictions on numbers, and the plan to keep the group broad-based.
“We wanted to take a global group of envoys to J&K with only some EU ambassadors; not all EU envoys were asked to join,” said a government source.
Some EU ambassadors conveyed that the visit was taking place at too “short a notice to seek instructions from headquarters”, sources said. “It was, therefore, decided that a group of EU ambassadors will undertake a trip to J&K at a later date,” said the source.
“The group was free to interact with people, subject to security considerations. In any case, no ambassador had specifically asked to meet anyone who was detained,” said the source, responding to suggestions that the EU envoys wanted to meet detained political leaders, including the three former chief ministers of J&K.
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