Another Batch of Foreign Envoys Arrive in Srinagar

Foreign envoys enjoy  Shikara (boat) ride on Dal Lake in Srinagar. Photo: Abid Bhat / KO

SRINAGAR – Another batch of 25 foreign envoys arrived here on Wednesday as part of a union government-facilitated trip to help them have a first-hand assessment of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, a region which faced months of harsh restrictions after its special status was stripped of in August.

The envoys arrived at the Srinagar airport around 11 am but could not go ahead with their scheduled visit to Baramulla in north Kashmir due to inclement weather, officials said.

The foreign dignitaries instead went for a Shikara (boat) ride in the famous Dal Lake.

The government had taken a group of 15 envoys to Jammu and Kashmir last month with an aim to make them see the efforts to bring back normalcy in Kashmir Valley. A number of opposition parties called it a “guided tour”.

KO Photo: Abid Bhat

In New Delhi, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that the group would meet representatives of the civil society, including youths, political leaders, local businessmen during their visit to the union territory.

After announcing reorganisation of Jammu and Kashmir and withdrawal of its special powers, India imposed severe curbs including on movement of people as well as on mobile telephone and internet connectivity. The crackdown drew international criticism with several countries expressing concerns over the situation in Kashmir.

“As a part of the outreach efforts, visit of a second group of foreign heads of mission is being organised to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir on February 12-13,” the MEA said.

It said the group is visiting Baramulla, Srinagar and Jammu and would meet representatives of the civil society, including youth from different ethnic, religious and socio-economic communities, local businessmen and political leaders.

Diplomats arrive at Srinagar airport

“They will also be briefed about the development programmes being implemented, get assessment of the security situation, and witness for themselves the progressive normalisation of the situation,” the MEA said.

The group comprises envoys from Afghanistan, Austria, Bulgaria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, the European Union, France, Germany, Republic of Guinea, Hungary, Italy and Kenya.

Envoys from Kyrgyztan, Mexico, Namibia, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Rwanda, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Uganda and Uzbekistan are also part of it.

A visiting envoy told reporters that he was in Kashmir “as a tourist”.

Foreign envoys take boat ride on Dal Lake in Srinagar. Photo: Abid Bhat / KO

“Upon our arrival, we enjoyed a #Shikara ride on Dal Lake in Srinagar, Kashmir. Beautiful lake and hospitable people. I bought a beautiful Kashmiri ring from a boat serving as a shop. @MEAIndia,” Afghanistan’s envoy to India Tahir Qadiry tweeted.

He also praised the Kashmiris for their hospitality.

“We Afghans claim that we are Mehman-Navaz (Hospitable), but the Kashmiris are definitely so too. Interacted with a bunch of young people here. This girl is a gold-medalist in basketball with very high hopes. Wishing this beautiful valley & its people lots of good wishes!” he said in another tweet.

On their meeting with journalists, Qadiry said, “In our interaction with the Kashmiri media outlets, the media people seriously urged the govt to restore the internet broadband as it is causing them so much problems to report and broadcast.”

Foreign envoys enjoy Shikara (boat) ride on Dal Lake in Srinagar. Photo: Abid Bhat / KO

The first group to visit Kashmir comprised envoys from the US, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, Maldives, Norway, Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Tog

Orchestrated Diplomacy, Says Iltija Mufti

Iltija Mufti, daughter of PDP president Mehbooba Mufti, on Wednesday termed the visit of foreign envoys to Kashmir as “orchestrated diplomacy” that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un “would be proud of”.

“How lovely! Kim Jong Un would be proud of such orchestrated diplomacy. The only thing missing is presence of 3 former J&K ex CMs in this ‘curated shikara’. I’m sure they’d have lots to share,” Iltija said in a tweet from her mother’s Twitter handle.

She was reacting to tweets by Afghanistan’s envoy to India Tahir Qadiry, showcasing the beauty of Dal Lake here.

A batch of 25 foreign envoys arrived here on Wednesday as part of a Union government-facilitated trip to assess ground situation.

The envoys arrived at the Srinagar airport around 11 am but could not go ahead with their scheduled visit to Baramulla in north Kashmir due to inclement weather, officials said.

The foreign dignitaries instead went for a Shikara (boat) ride in the famous Dal Lake.

Iltija also questioned how the Afghan envoy was able to access Twitter as the social media sites were banned in Kashmir.

“Your excellency please do enlighten us Kashmiris about which VPN you are using to tweet? We will also download and tweet freely,” she said.

Iltija hoped that the envoys would question the authorities here about the internet shutdown and detention of political leaders under the Public Safety Act.

“Hope you & @EU_in_India question GOI about Internet ban since 5th August & economic losses suffered GOI muzzling local media in Kashmir release of detainees inc 3 ex CMs slapped with draconian PSA troop deployment to create fear amongst people. Normalcy’s an illusion,” she added.

3 Detained For Protesting Foreign Envoys Visit

Three young men were detained here on Wednesday after they staged a protest against the visit of foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir, police said.

They protested against the visit and called it a waste of money while the envoys were enjoying a Shikara ride in the Dal Lake.

A second batch of foreign envoys arrived in Srinagar on Wednesday for a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir for a first-hand assessment of the situation in the Union territory.

The envoys are from the European Union, South America and the Gulf countries, officials said.

“The government should stop wasting money on these events. The money saved should be spent on the development of Kashmir,” one of the youths said while being whisked away by the police.

They were taken to the nearby police station, the officials said.

 

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