Image Courtesy: News18. The delegation includes diplomats from Vietnam, South Korea, Niger, Nigeria, Morocco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh and Peru.
Srinagar: Following a controversial visit of European Union (EU) members in October last year to Kashmir, a 17-member delegation of foreign diplomats arrived in Srinagar on Thursday to the Union territory of Jammu & Kashmir, the second such visit since abrogation of Article 370 on August 5, 2019.
The high-profile delegation landed at Srinagar airport at about 11:30 a.m and visited Badami Bagh Cantonment before arriving at Srinagar’s Grand Palace hotel near Dal Lake at around 1 p.m, close to where former chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have been detained.
The foreign envoys met a select group of delegations, including politicians, social workers and members from media fraternity. The delegation included US ambassador Kenneth Jester and envoys from Niger, Nigeria, Togo, Morocco, Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Guyana, Fiji, Vietnam, the Philippines, Maldives, South Korea, Uzbekistan, Bangladesh and Norway.
The delegation was kept away from media glare as the hotel where they stayed for the day was secured with heavy security presence of the J&K Police and the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) personnel. After their brief stay, the envoys were airlifted to Srinagar airport at around 4 p.m and traveled to Jammu division where they were hosted by Lt Governor GC Murmu for dinner.
In the winter capital of Jammu on Friday, the envoys met a select group of members from civil society, members from the Gujjar community, West Pakistan refugees, senior government officials and local women rights activists. The delegation also visited a Kashmiri Hindu migrant camp in the city outskirts of Jagati late afternoon where they interacted with the migrants.
Terming it as a ‘guided’ tour, National Conference spokesperson Imran Nabi told NewsClick that they received no invitation to meet the delegation. “Our leadership has been put in jail. It’s a guided tour and there is no real local representation meeting them,” Imran said.
Among the politicians who met the delegation in Srinagar were Ghulam Hassan Mir, Altaf Bukhari, Shoaib Lone and Rafi Mir, Noor Mohammad Sheikh, Abdul Rahim Rather and Abdul Majid Padder.
The delegation from media included journalists and editors of local newspapers including Ayaz Hafiz, Bashir Manzar, Rashid Rahil, Fayaz Kaloo, Javaid Malik, Majid Hyderi, Mohammad Saleem Pandit and Farooq Wani.
“We talked about youth engagement and the current situation and highlighted the need of internet,” a part of another delegation, Nasir Ali Khan, told NewsClick.
Speaking to NewsClick, People’s Democratic Party (PDP leader Abdul Rahim Rather, who was part of the delegation of politicians, said they apprised the envoys about the ongoing crisis in Kashmir. “We informed them that the situation is yet to return to normalcy in the region. We also informed them about the internet shutdown and many other problems that mar the region,” Rather said.
The visit, however, created ripples in political circles of the region, especially within former Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ally, PDP. After their leaders met the delegation, PDP expelled nine party members, including Rather and party spokesperson, Rafi Mir.
According to a PDP spokesperson, the party expelled the members for being part of two delegations that met the foreign envoys and the LG on January 7. Other than Rather and Mir, PDP also expelled former MLC Zafar Manhas and former MLAs Abdul Majid Padder, Noor Mohammad Sheikh, Javaid Beigh, Dilawar Mir, Raja Manzoor and Qamar Hussain.
On Friday afternoon, three members from the PDP announced their resignation from the party following the expulsion of nine party members a day earlier. Among the members who resigned from the party includes Dilawar Mir’s son Yawar Mir, an ex-MLA, Muntazir Mohiuddin and Showkat Gayoor.
Earlier in October, the EU delegation’s visit to Srinagar was marred with controversy after the members were known to be from Far-Right groups. A complete shutdown was observed in Kashmir against the delegation’s visit. Envoys from some European countries and some Gulf countries, sources said, refused to be part of the delegation on Thursday’s visit.