Envoys from U.S., 15 Other Nations Visit Jammu & Kashmir, EU Envoys Decline

The European Union declined to take part over lack of access to detained politicians.

DESPARDES (Updated) — U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth I. Juster along with envoys from 15 other countries arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Delegation includes diplomats from the United States, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, the Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Argentina, the Philippines, Fiji, Uzbekistan, Peru and Togo.

The European Union declined to take part over lack of access to detained politicians, The National reported.

It’s the first visit by diplomats since the annexation of the occupied valley via abrogation of special autonomy (Article 370) granted to J&K decades ago.

Outside access to the region remains limited, with no foreign journalists allowed to visit since the clampdown began.

PM-led Modi government diluted the special status of J&K in August 2019 in a controversial move that has kept the valley in a lockdown since then.

The security lockdown and communications blackout, still only partially lifted, has drawn international criticism including in Brussels and Washington.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel during her visit to Delhi post-370 called the annexation “not good, not sustainable”.

Pakistan called the move unacceptable and an attempt to unleash genocide, change the Muslim-majority region’s demography and urged for plebiscite as per 1948 UN Security Council Resolution.

“EU envoys don’t want a guided tour of Kashmir. We want to meet people freely of our own choosing,” the NDTV news channel quoted one European diplomatic source as saying.

In particular they wanted to meet three former chief ministers, Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti, who are still locked up, daily newspaper The Hindu reported. The three have been under house arrest or kept at a government residence since August.

Despite refusing the invitation for the January trip, a diplomatic source told AFP that the EU, which has been pressing for months to gain access to some of those detained, was still keen to go at a later date.

“The EU is interested in going and continues to be engaged with the MEA (Ministry of External Affairs) on timing and elements of the trip,” the source said.

The Delhi-based envoys arrived in Srinagar by a special chartered flight where top officials received them.

Later in the day, they would be going to Jammu, the winter capital of the Himalayan valley, for an overnight stay. They will meet the Governor as well as civil society members, Indian news agency PTI reports citing officials.