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SRINAGAR: A 15-member delegation of envoys from different countries including US ambassador Kenneth Juster arrived here on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday to see first-hand the efforts being made by the government in the region. The Delhi-based envoys were briefed on overall security situation by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General KJS Dhillon while they were interact by certain Kashmiri leaders including Ghulam Hasan Mir, Altaf Bukhari, Shoaib Iqbal Lone and others.

This is the first visit by diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution that accorded special status to the region. The group was accompanied by senior officials of the External Affairs Ministry.

Sources had earlier said that the delegation, which includes diplomats from the United States, Maldives, Norway, Argentina, Niger, Togo, Vietnam, Bangladesh, South Korea, Peru, Morocco, among others, will meet civil society leaders and will be briefed on the security situation by the Army and intelligence services during the two-day visit. Last year a delegation comprising members of the European Parliament had visited the Valley after the abrogation of Article 370.

Kashmiri leaders

Jammu and Kashmir Democratic Party (Nationalist) leader Ghulam Hasan Mir and former Jammu and Kashmir Finance Minister Altaf Bukhari met foreign envoys and later said that political detainees should be released.
Mir, who is a former J-K tourism minister, said the “political prisoners” should be released and it is the government’s responsibility to fix security issues. “There might be security issues in the region but it is the government’s responsibility to fix it. Political prisoners should be released. In a democracy, everyone has a right to raise their voice. Political prisoners cannot be kept there all the time,” Mir told ANI.
The delegation is visiting Jammu and Kashmir to see first-hand the efforts made by the government to normalise the situation after the revocation of its special status in August last year.
“We had an interactive session with the envoys. We are merely a bridge between people and government to address grievances of people,” Mir said.
Bukhari said he exchanged ideas with the envoys. “It is not that they have authority. For that we have raked the issue with the Lieutenant Governor.”
“When the political leaders are released, they will rake up the issues as our grievances are common,” he said.

Raveesh Kumar

Foreign envoys’ first meeting was with security officials to get a sense of security situation in J&K, and also threat posed by terrorism in maintaining peace. Objective of the visit was for the envoys to see first hand the efforts which have been made by government to normalise situation,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.

The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday said the objective of the visit by foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmirwas for them to see first hand efforts to normalise the situation there and termed the criticism that it was a guided tour unfounded.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said a similar visit to Kashmir can be organised in future including by EU envoys.

The team of 15 envoys which included the U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

Mr. Kumar said that the visit was facilitated by the government and the envoys met security officials, political leaders, civil society groups and media. The objective of the visit is to see first hand efforts to normalise the situation in Kashmir, he said.

The visit to J&K was organised considering prevailing situation, he said.

Asked about political leaders who met the group, Kumar said the visit by the envoys to Kashmir is not yet over. The EU envoys wanted to visit Kashmir in a group and the government did not extend invite to all, he said. The criticism that this is a guided tour is unfounded, he said.

Congress’ point of view

Congress Party has reacted saying that the Govt adopting double standards by allowing envoys to visit J&K, but not Indian politicians.

The Congress accused the government of adopting double standards by resorting to “guided tours” to Jammu & Kashmir for foreign envoys, but not allowing Indian politicians to go there.

“Government adopting double standards by allowing foreign envoys to visit J&K, but not Indian politicians,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference.

“We demand that the government allows unfettered access to J&K to all politicians and not resort to guided tours for envoys,” he said. The Congress wants meaningful political activities in J&K, Mr. Ramesh said.

Rashid Alvi

Congress leader Rashid Alvi on Thursday urged the Central government to send representatives from political parties to Jammu and Kashmir and said their statements will be believed by people of the country.
He said the two-day visit of envoys of 15 countries to the region was “guided by the (Central) government”. “They (the Centre) should ask each party in the country to send their representatives to Jammu and Kashmir. The statements given by them after their visit will be believed by the people,” Alvi told ANI.
The Congress leader said that the Central government cannot make the situation better in the Union Territory “by manipulation”.

Mir Junaid

Mir Junaid, a Kashmiri activist, who met a delegation of 15 foreign envoys on Thursday during their visit to the Valley, slammed Pakistan stating that it has no locus standi to rake up abrogation of Article 370 and its main role has been to send infiltrators in the region.
Junaid said Pakistan has no right to interfere over Article 370, which granted special powers to Jammu and Kashmir. “We told them (the delegation) that Pakistan has nothing to do with it. It is our internal matter. Pakistan has no role to play in it. They should keep out of our internal matters when it comes to Article 370. They have no locus standi to raise this issue on international platforms,” Junaid told ANI.
“Pakistan’s main role is sending infiltrators here. Let them stop sending (infiltrators) here, there will be no security forces. You will see Jammu and Kashmir doing wonders,” the activist said in reply to a query.
The activist said the neighbouring country is facing a severe economic crisis and should have its focus on steps to improve the situation. He also asked Pakistan to take stern steps against terrorism.
“They should focus on their own country. They should focus on what is happening there in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area). They are in worse economic condition. They should work on their economy and take action against terrorism,” Junaid said.