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Parliament proceedings: MEPs visited at invitation of Delhi-based think tank, says Kishan Reddy

November 20, 2019 10:28 pm | Updated 10:58 pm IST - New Delhi

Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy. File

Union Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy. File

Members of the group of European parliamentarians who visited Srinagar recently were on a “private visit” to the country at the invitation of a Delhi-based think tank, the Centre informed the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.

Minister of State for Home G. Kishan Reddy said in a written reply that the delegation of India’s Members of Parliament was not allowed to visit Kashmir due to security concerns.

“The government of Jammu and Kashmir has reported that a group of 27 Members of European Parliament (MEPs), who belonged to different political parties, including ruling and opposition parties, paid a private visit to India from October 28, 2019, to November 1, 2019, at the invitation of the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank,” Mr. Reddy said.

As reported by The Hindu , the group of MEPs were promised a “prestigious VIP meeting” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and the NGO that organised the visit claimed that the PM had wanted to meet them as “influential decision makers from the European Union.” The invitations were sent to more than 30 MEPs by Brussels-based British PIO Madi Sharma, who accompanied the delegation and also met National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval. A senior official said the delegation had been escorted in army vehicles when they arrived from Delhi at Srinagar airport on Octobber 29.

Opposition MPs have not been allowed to visit the Kashmir Valley after August 5 when Home Minister Amit Shah moved two Bills in the Rajya Sabha to revoke the special status of J&K under Article 370 and downgrade and bifurcate the State into two Union Territories.

Mr. Reddy was responding to a set of questions that sought to know which institution organised and bore the expenses of this Kashmir tour, and whether the institution that organised it was working as a coordinating institution for the central government.

In a separate reply, Mr. Reddy said such visits promote “deeper” people-to-people contact.

“Meetings were facilitated for the MEPs, as has been done previously on familiarisation visits for the visiting members of parliament of different countries,” he asserted. “Further, the MEPs had expressed their desire that they would like to visit Kashmir to understand how terrorism is affecting India and how this has been a challenge for India,” Mr. Reddy said.

The MEPs had got a sense of the threat of terrorism and how terrorism posed a threat to India, especially in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, he asserted.

“Such exchanges promote deeper people-to-people contact and ultimately, it feeds into the larger relationship which any two countries would like to develop,” the minister said.

To another question on whether the Union government had “distracted” from its policy of not allowing any external intervention on the Jammu and Kashmir issue, Mr. Reddy stated that India’s consistent position has been that issues, if any, with Pakistan were discussed only bilaterally.

“There is no scope for any third party role or mediation,” he said.

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