US AMBASSADOR to India Kenneth I Juster and envoys from 15 other countries arrived here on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the State’s Special Status was revoked and it was downsized to a Union Territory.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. The delegation was briefed by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General K J S Dhillon on the security situation in the region.
Prior to that, the Delhi-based envoys met several political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir, including Ghulam Hasan Mir, Altaf Bukhari, Shoaib Iqbal Lone, Hilal Ahmed Shah, Noor Mohd Sheikh, Abdul Majid Padder, Abdul Rahim Rather and Rafi Ahmed Mir. The envoys are here as part of the Government’s diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan’s propaganda on the Kashmir issue. Besides the US, the delegation includes diplomats from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, and Nigeria. They will return to Delhi on Friday.
Brazil’s envoy Andre Aranha Correa do Lago was also scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir. However, he backed out because of his preoccupation, the officials said on Wednesday. Envoys from the European Union (EU) countries are understood to have conveyed that they will visit the Union Territory on a different date and are also believed to have stressed on meeting the three former Chief Ministers -- Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti -- who are under detention. Officials said that envoys of several countries had requested the Government for a visit to Kashmir to get a first-hand account of the situation in the Valley following the August 5 decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate it into two Union Territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh.
This is the second visit of a foreign delegation to Jammu and Kashmir since August 5. Earlier, Delhi-based think tank International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank took 23 EU MPs on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the union territory. The government had distanced itself from the visit with Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy informing Parliament that the European parliamentarians were on a “private visit”.
‘Visit aims to show normalcy measures’
NEW DELHI :
THE Government on Thursday said the objective of taking envoys of 15 countries to Kashmir was to help them see the efforts to bring back normalcy in the Valley after abrogation of Article 370 and rejected criticism that the visit is like a guided tour. The envoys from 15 nations including from the US began a two-day Government-facilitated trip to Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday. The Congress accused the Government of “adopting double standards” by organising “guided tours” to Jammu and Kashmir for foreign envoys, but not allowing Indian politicians to visit the Union Territories. Besides the US, the group comprised envoys from South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, Maldives, Norway, Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said. “The objective of the visit is for the envoys to see the efforts being made by the Government to bring the situation to normal and see first-hand the impact of series of steps taken by the local administration to normalise the situation in recent weeks,” he said.