More than two dozen diplomats are visiting Jammu and Kashmir, the government said yesterday, as the country tries to reassure foreign allies following several months of unrest in the territory.
The group includes European diplomats, some of whom declined a previous invitation from New Delhi to visit the region.
This is the second visit by foreign envoys to Kashmir in as many months.
A proposed vote in the European Union parliament next month could chastise India for its actions in Kashmir.
The Muslim-majority Himalayan region has been in turmoil since New Delhi stripped it of special status and clamped down on communication and freedom of movement in August.
India has since eased those restrictions, and restored limited Internet connectivity last month, ending one of the world’s longest such shutdowns in a democracy.
But many political leaders, including three former chief ministers, are still in detention without charge six months after the crackdown, and foreign journalists have so far been denied permission to visit the region.
Representatives from countries including Germany, Canada, France, New Zealand, Mexico, Italy, Afghanistan and Austria are on a two-day visit to “witness for themselves the progressive normalisation of the situation,” India’s foreign ministry said in a statement yesterday.
Representatives from several countries, including Germany’s ambassador Walter Lindner, were pictured on a traditional wooden shikara boat on Dal Lake, in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar.
“We are interacting with the traders, businesswomen and entrepreneurs in Srinagar about the status of business and tourism,” Afghanistan’s envoy Tahir Qadiry said in a tweet.
Speaking to reporters after the shikara ride, Qadiry said, “We saw that schools and shops were open on our way from the airport to city. It was the part of the world that I always wanted to see.”
The diplomat from Mexico said Kashmir was a beautiful place.
“We are here as tourists,” he said.
Later, Peoples Democratic Party leader Khalid Jahangir and Congress state general secretary Usman Majeed were among a group of politicians who met the delegation.
After the meeting, Jahangir said he raised the issue of political detentions in Kashmir.
He said he told the delegation that the majority of the people in Kashmir hate mainstream leaders.
Jahangir said he told them that the three former chief ministers must be released.
“The former chief ministers must be released if there are no charges against them and they are not involved in any unlawful activity,” he said.
“A peaceful political process is needed in Kashmir.”
Majeed said he was not representing his party but met the foreign envoys in his individual capacity.
“I raised the issues of business losses, Internet blockade, detention of politicians, development activities in Kashmir,” Majeed said.
He said he told the delegation that there is a disconnect between the administration and the people and elections should be held as soon as possible.
“I told them the government of India should compensate for the loss of Article 35A and that the fight for restoration of statehood will continue.”
The envoys will travel to Jammu today. Last month 15 foreign envoys visited Kashmir – a trip participants characterised as tightly-choreographed with no room for independent meetings.
“Things looked calm, but we only had a very short time out the window of the car to assess the situation,” said a diplomat who attended the previous trip.
“They told the truth, but not necessarily the whole truth,” he added of his meetings with delegates.
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