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‘Chance to see what’s happening on ground’: EU delegation leaves for Kashmir

The delegation, which the European Union branch in New Delhi said is ‘not an official delegation’, had on Monday met PM Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.

SNS | New Delhi |

A delegation of over 25 European Union MPs on Tuesday left for Jammu and Kashmir Kashmir – the first such visit to the Valley that comes amid concerns voiced in the US and some other countries over the situation in the state after the revocation of its special status.

On their way to the Delhi airport, a member of European Parliament from Wales, Nathan Gill said that it is a good opportunity for them to go into Kashmir as a foreign delegation and to be able to see firsthand for themselves as to what is happening on the ground.

The delegation, which the European Union branch in New Delhi said is “not an official delegation”, had on Monday met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval.

The delegation was briefed about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and cross-border terrorism emanating from across the border.

PM during his meeting, pressed for urgent action against the countries using terrorism as a state policy — in an apparent reference to Pakistan — thus setting the tone for the visit of the team to Kashmir.

PM Modi expressed hope that they will have a fruitful visit to various parts of the country, including Jammu and Kashmir.

“Their visit to J-K should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region, apart from giving a clear view of development and governance priorities of the region,” the Prime Minister’s office said in a statement.

Their visit to Kashmir on Tuesday comes two days ahead of the state’s formal bifurcation into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh.

This is the first foreign delegation to visit Kashmir since its special status granted under Article 370 was abolished on August 5, which led to a huge outcry in neighbouring Pakistan and persistent efforts by Islamabad to internationalise the issue.

Meanwhile, on Monday, some Kashmiri leaders, including some newly-elected Block Development Council (BDC) members in the state, also met the EU members.

The delegation, which includes members from the UK, France, Italy, Poland and Germany, later called on Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu.

On August 5, the Centre decided to scrap Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcate the state into two Union Territories after the abrogation of Article 370, and restrictions were imposed in the Valley.

The delegation visit to the Valley comes on the heels of a US Congressional meeting in Washington, where a group of lawmakers expressed concern about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370.

Seeking a roadmap to political and economic normalcy in Kashmir, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Alice G Wells asked India to ease the restrictions in the troubled region.

The US has also demanded an immediate release of all political detainees, adding that it has seen “progress” in easing of restrictions.

The visit of the EU delegation is an attempt by India to counter the negative picture of Kashmir sought to be portrayed by Pakistan.