External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has not ruled out the possibility of allowing Left-wing Members of European Parliament (MEPs) to visit Kashmir, provided they went there without prejudice.
In an interview to Dutch daily NRC Handelsblad, he strongly defended the recent controversial visit of predominantly right-wing MEPs to the valley, saying they went there without a ‘preconceived opinion’ about the situation.
“We did what we do with every group of unbiased people, at every moment, namely giving our opinion and having them see for themselves,” he said.
On permitting Left-wing MEPs access to the valley, he said a lot would depend upon the purpose of the visit. “If a group of people wanted to visit Kashmir without prejudice, we wouldn’t say no. We are a very pluralistic country, both socially and politically.”
On the situation in Kashmir, Jaishankar said telephone lines were now open again. The internet has not yet fully recovered because militants used social media for radicalisation and mass mobilisation during earlier very violent periods.
When it was pointed out that people were still afraid of coming out of their homes, he said it was because they were afraid of intimidation by militants, who put up posters on which they threatened people so that they don’t go to school or leave their shops closed.
Asked if the anger against restrictions in the valley would last long even if they had been withdrawn he said, “Imagine if we had not done this. In 2016 we allowed people – what they called – to hold political meetings. A peak in violence followed. Such meetings are often misused by terrorists and separatists. In the battle in Kashmir, 40,000 lives have been lost in 30 years. The situation is unique in that it is fuelled by the conscious terrorist policy of the neighbouring country [Pakistan].”
Asked what the government would do to reassure Muslims after the Supreme Court ruling in the Ayodhya land dispute case, he said the verdict clearly stated that all communities must be assured that they have a place.
When pointed out that the government has pre-emptively secured many people and imposed prohibitions on gatherings, Jaishankar said this was one of the fundamental responsibilities for a government. “I prefer preventive detentions and no violence than being complacent with accidents as a result. Sometimes measures must be taken for public order. That is not only justified, but sometimes really necessary,” he added.