Srinagar: Several envoys from different countries, including United States, Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Niger, Nigeria, Morroco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh and Peru, came for a two-day visit to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir and were briefed about the Kashmir situation by the Army, administration and different delegations of politicians, media and civil society groups.
Some delegations from civil society members told the envoys that they should “exercise their influence” over the Union government to allow people to have dissent in open and also lift curbs on internet services and prepaid mobiles in Kashmir valley. Kashmir has been witnessing one of the longest internet shutdowns in the world since abrogation of Article 370.
According to media reports, envoys of the European Union decided to visit Kashmir at some later date as they were keen to meet three former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers who are still under detention. The media reports said that they were also interested to visit Kashmir and meet people of their choice and not be part of any “guided tour” of envoys.
US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster was seen by journalists interacting with several delegations and also getting feedback about the Kashmir situation. Apart from the visit by some foreign lawmakers in October last year, this is the first visit by diplomats to Kashmir after the clampdown. Envoys in Srinagar were briefed by the administration of Lt. Governor G.C. Murmu and also by the Army top brass.
Some mainstream political leaders met the foreign delegation, including former ministers like Altaf Bukhari, Ghulam Hasan Mir, Dilawar Mir and others. Soon after their meet, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) issued a statement saying that the eight party leaders who met the foreign delegation were being expelled from the party. The party said that the Centre was trying to “poach” on different mainstream political leaders to make a new political front to divide the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Meanwhile, a rebel group of PDP, along with other former ministers and lawmakers, met Lt. Governor Murmu on Wednesday before meeting the foreign envoys on Thursday. Former Deputy Chief Minister and PDP leader Muzafar Hussain Beigh told the media that Mehbooba Mufti tried to “coerce the Prime Minister” by saying that there would be a bloodbath in Kashmir if Article 370 and Article 35 A were removed.
Responding to recent political developments in Kashmir, especially the talk of formation of a third front, senior National Conference leader and former minister Muhammad Akbar Lone said that “all of them were stooges and agents of the Union Government”. He cautioned Delhi not to divide political parties.