NEW DELHI: The government is likely to organise another visit by foreign ambassadors to Jammu and Kashmir this month, ToI has learnt. While the modalities are still being worked out, it is learnt that the group will comprise ambassadors from European and Gulf nations.
The proposed visit follows India’s February 5 move to restore 4G mobile internet services in the union territory (UT) exactly 18 months after India amended Article 370 to revoke the special status of the erstwhile state.
India’s decision to restore internet services was welcomed by the US as an important step for local residents. While maintaining that there’s no change in the US South Asia policy, the Biden administration has said that it’s looking forward to “continued political and economic progress” to restore normalcy in Jammu and Kashmir.
The group of foreign envoys is also expected to interact with some of the newly elected District Development Council (DDC) members, with the government looking to highlight the turnout in the maiden DDC elections as a sign of the local people’s faith in “grassroot democracy” and their rejection of any interference by external forces in, as the government says, India’s internal matter.
Security agencies are also expected to brief the envoys about the threat from cross-border terrorism that, as Indian authorities continue to maintain, is facilitated by Pakistan. The visit will also come at a time Pakistan is said to be making fresh peace overtures, starting with army chief Qamar Bajwa’s comment that Pakistan wants to extend the hand of peace in all directions. Pakistan PM Imran Khan though has also said that India must first restore the special status of Jammu and Kashmir.
The ambassadors, who are likely to visit both Srinagar and Jammu, will form the third such delegation to visit the Valley since August 5, 2019, when the state was bifurcated into the separate UTs of Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir.
A group of 27 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) had visit Kashmir in October, 2019, at the invitation of a Delhi based think tank after they apparently expressed a desire to visit Kashmir to understand how terrorism was affecting India. A similar visit for Delhi based foreign envoys was organised by government authorities early next year.
The government also clearly doesn’t believe that such visits by foreign dignitaries can lead to internationalisation of the Kashmir issue. As the government said earlier, while defending the visit by MEPs, it believes such exchanges are consistent with India’s foreign policy objectives in promoting deeper people to people contact and ultimately help promote the larger relationship that India pursues with other countries.