Government allows 27 European lawmakers to visit Kashmir

A group of 27 European parliamentarians will be the first foreign lawmakers to travel to Jammu and Kashmir to see the ground situation after the Centre’s August 5 decision to rescind the state’s special status and split it into two Union Territories.

The move is seen as a significant shift by the Modi government, indicating a desire to address international opinion over the communication lockdown and detention of political leaders that followed the decision to nullify Article 370. The members of European parliament (MEP) met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national security adviser Ajit Doval on Monday.

The visiting group consists of MEPs from Italy, UK, France, Germany and Poland, and they are on a visit “in their personal capacities”, said sources. Most of them belong to right-wing parties, which are more sympathetic to India’s stand on Kashmir, a point that attracted some criticism of the government’s move on social media.

During his meeting with the MPs, the PM called for urgent action against sponsors and supporters of terrorism without naming Pakistan. He said the use of terrorism as state policy must be opposed and added the visit will allow the parliamentarians to get “a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh”. Modi also said the visit will provide a clear view of the development and governance priorities of the region, according to an official readout.

The visit has been organised by the NSA’s office. Last week, a group of US lawmakers had demanded that they be allowed to visit Kashmir. US senator Chris van Hollen, who was in India recently, complained that he had not been allowed to go.

The MEPs also met Vice-President M Venkaiah Naidu while Doval spent almost an hour providing a detailed briefing on the situation. External affairs minister S Jaishankar met them at dinner on Monday evening. The EU parliamentarians will travel to Srinagar on Tuesday morning, where they are expected to meet civil society and the administration.

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