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Foreign envoys’ team on a fact-finding visit to Jammu and Kashmir

Ground study: Foreign envoys arriving at the Srinagar airport on Thursday on a two-day visit.

Ground study: Foreign envoys arriving at the Srinagar airport on Thursday on a two-day visit.   | Photo Credit: ANI

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Foreign envoys hold meetings with politicians, local editors and elected grassroots leaders like panchs and councillors

A 15-member foreign envoys’ delegation arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to J&K and met over 100 people, including senior Valley-based politicians, top newspaper editors and grassroots representatives.

 

They are seeking a feedback on the ground situation post the revocation of the State’s special status, Pakistan’s attempts at interference and immediate demands of the people.

Unlike the controversial tour of the European Union (EU) parliamentarians in October last year, these envoys, also comprising U.S. ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster and the Norwegian ambassador, drove past busy streets from the airport to reach the venue at Lalit Grand Palace Hotel. The venue is very close to the sub-jail where National Conference vice-president Omar Abdullah has been detained since August 5. The envoys did not meet the detained leader.

No shutdown was observed by locals nor was violence reported, unlike the time when EU parliamentarians visited.

Closed-door meetings

During their meetings with the politicians, local editors and elected grassroots leaders like panchs and councillors, the envoys posed pointed questions on the revocation of Article 370 and wanted to know if Pakistan was making attempts to interfere, local delegates who met them told The Hindu. There was a common demand for restoration of Internet service, they added.

The foreign envoys, mainly invited from South America, Africa and Asia, held a closed-door interaction with a group of prominent politicians led by Altaf Bukhari, who is fast emerging as the face of the non-National Conference (NC) and non-Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) third front.

“We apprised the delegation of the current situation. We told them that people were hurt by the abrogation of Article 370; the matter is before the apex court now,” said Mr. Bukhari. He stressed the need to restore Statehood, introduce domicile laws to safeguard land, and find jobs for the locals.

 

The politicians also called for “immediate release of all political leaders and the youth in the Valley.”

Prominent political faces that met the foreign envoys included Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Party Nationalist’s Ghulam Hassan Mir, PDP’s Noor Muhammad Sheikh, Rafi Mir, Javaid Baigh, Abdul Raheem Rather and Majeed Padder and Congress’s Hilal Shah and Shoaib Lone.

PDP action

Shortly after the meeting, a tweet from the PDP’s official handle said, “Certain party leaders are part of parleys which go against the interests of J&K, the official position and core beliefs. The disciplinary committee has recommended expulsion of these leaders.”

However, Rafi Mir told The Hindu that he did not go against people’s aspirations or the party’s stand. “I have my own mind and no one can control me,” he said. Mr. Mir shared his “way forward to restore peace and normalcy in J&K” with the envoys.

No prominent civil society group or trade body met the envoys. An NC spokesman termed the visit “a guided tour.”

The Army hosted the envoys at its headquarters in Badamibagh and apprised them of the current security scenario, including the issue of terrorism, and Pakistan’s attempts to “destabilise the situation on the Line of Control (LoC) and the mainland in the Union Territory.”

The envoys left for Jammu in the afternoon, where they will meet Lt. Governor G.C. Murmu on Friday.

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Printable version | Jan 30, 2020 1:55:35 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/envoys-from-15-nations-arrive-in-kashmir-to-assess-ground-situation/article30521330.ece

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