German envoy likely to lead second batch of diplomats to J&K

German envoy likely to lead second batch of diplomats to J&K

Ambassadors from EU, Gulf, ASEAN nations to visit UT later this week

A month after a delegation of diplomats visited Jammu and Kashmir, the government plans to take a second batch of Ambassadors there later this week, and allow them to speak with several delegations about the ground situation six months after the amendment of Article 370.

The government has invited several diplomats from the European Union, including Germany, France, the Czech Republic, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary and the European Union envoy himself for the two-day visit, beginning January 12, although sources said they have not received confirmations from all those who will participate.

As one of the most senior Delhi-based diplomats, Germany’s Ambassador Walter Lindner is expected to lead the delegation.

Other invitees include the envoys from Qatar and other Gulf countries, as well as envoys from the 10-nation ASEAN grouping and countries in the neighbourhood.

The Russian Ambassador, who has been invited twice, had said on January 17 that Kashmir is an “internal matter” for India and there is “no reason” for him to travel there, and is unlikely to join this batch as well.

According to sources, the visit to Srinagar had been earlier planned for Tuesday, but was put off due to a call by separatist groups for a ‘shutdown’ on February 11, anniversary of the hanging of JKLF founder Maqbool Bhatt.

From Srinagar

Depending on the status of the shutdown, the delegation of diplomats that is expected to begin its visit to Srinagar on February 12, may be taken to other districts in North Kashmir before visiting Jammu. Officials confirmed that all logistics and security was is in place for the visit, which will be coordinated by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA).

As The Hindu reported last week, the presence of envoys from EU member countries is significant as the last time a batch had visited Kashmir in January, the EU had declined to participate unless they were taken as a group of all 27 (then 28, including the U.K.) members. Diplomatic sources had also said the envoys wanted more than a “guided tour”, and had asked to meet the former chief ministers in detention, who have now all been charged under the stringent Public Safety Act.

The inclusion of EU envoys is also timed just before External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s visit to Munich and Brussels, where he is expected to engage with German and EU officials and parliamentarians over concerns on the situation in Kashmir, as well as anti-CAA protests.

Members of Parliament have criticised the previous visits conducted by the government for Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) in October last year and diplomats including U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Juster in January this year.

In a tweet about the diplomats’ visit while former chief ministers Farooq and Omar Abdullah, and Mehbooba Mufti have been charged under the PSA, Communist Party (Marxist) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury said it was “a sham of ‘normalcy’.”

“The Modi government continues its [Public Relations] trip, even as leaders in Kashmir, and Indian MPs cannot visit. Thousands of people from there are under detention,” he added.

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