Envoy’s Programme Was Drawn up Based on Threat Perception: MEA

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the objective of the visit for envoys was “to see the efforts being made by the government to bring the situation to normal".

New Delhi: In the first diplomatic sojourn since August, 15 ambassadors and high commissioners ranging from the United States to Togo visited Srinagar on Thursday, with the government noting that their programme was drawn up with an eye on threat perception.

On August 5, the Indian government had moved parliament to dilute the autonomous status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcate the state into two union territories. Since then, Kashmir had been put under severe restrictions on communications and movement. Though some of the restrictions have been removed, there are still no internet facilities in Kashmir.

While several countries had requested India to permit a visit to Kashmir, the Indian government had not accepted the request so far.

MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said that the objective of the visit for envoys was “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”.

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The countries, whose Delhi-based heads of missions are part of the delegation, are the United States, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, Maldives, Norway, Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo.

Upon their arrival in Srinagar, they met with local government officials, a group of civil society members, media persons and local politicians. The envoys will be travelling to Jammu on January 10.

“The programme was drawn up keeping in mind the threat posed by terrorism and taking adequate precautions for security,” Kumar told reporters.

He added that the criteria for choosing the composition for the delegation was to make it “broad-based” and “represent different geographical regions”.

He also that some EU countries had also been approached, but they had apparently pointed out that they would like to visit in a group. EU usually takes common positions on foreign policy issues. “We were also told that this was being organised at a short notice,” stated Kumar.

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He indicated that there could be more visits organised in the future based on “experience from this visit”. If there was more “progressive normalisation”, there would be more “free” interaction included in the programme, Kumar stated. “This is just the beginning,” he said.

The principal opposition party Congress party criticised the government for organising “guided tours” for foreign envoys, while keeping away Indian politicians from the valley.

Government adopting double standards by allowing foreign envoys to visit J&K, but not Indian politicians,” Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference on Thursday.

“We demand that the government allows unfettered access to J&K to all politicians and not resort to guided tours for envoys,” he added.