Govt. planning J&K troop reduction: Jaishankar

Govt. planning J&K troop reduction: Jaishankar

External Affairs Minister holds meetings with European Union officials in Brussels over concerns on curbs in the State

The Union government is planning to reduce the number of troops in Jammu and Kashmir, sent in the past month to deal with the aftermath of the Article 370 decision, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said on Sunday. He held meetings in Brussels where European Union officials raised concerns over human rights restrictions in the State, ahead of a European Parliament meeting on the situation in Kashmir on Monday.

“I would suggest to you that in the coming days you will see an easing up progressively,” Mr. Jaishankar was quoted as having said in an interview to the news website Politico Europe. He added that there would be a reduction in the roughly 30,000 extra security forces deployed in Jammu and Kashmir since August 2.

“Frankly, they have other jobs and other things to do,” Mr. Jaishankar said in the interview published from Brussels.

‘Curbs necessary’

Defending the communication restrictions in the Kashmir Valley in particular, the Minister said they were enforced to stop “people who are doing violence to contact each other”.

“How do I cut off communications between the terrorists and their masters on the one hand, but keep the Internet open for other people? I would be delighted to know,” he said in reply to questions about the Internet and mobile telephone suspension. Mr. Jaishankar denied reports of medicine and food shortages.

On Monday afternoon, the European Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee is scheduled to have an “exchange of views” with Gunnar Wiegand, Managing Director for Asia and Pacific, European External Action Service (EU Foreign Ministry), on the situation in Kashmir, the committee’s draft agenda said.

According to Pakistani news agency reports, Prime Minister of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Raja Farooqi Haider will “be present” at the European Parliament to highlight Pakistan’s diplomatic campaign on Jammu and Kashmir, and Mr. Wiegand is expected to present a report on developments in Kashmir over the past month.

Series of meetings

Over the weekend, Mr. Jaishankar held meetings with several European Union leaders including the President of the European Parliament, David Sassoli, and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini, describing India’s actions for “better governance and greater development in Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh” in the meetings.

A statement issued by Ms. Mogherini’s office said she had “stressed the importance of steps to restore the rights and freedoms of the population in Kashmir.”

India has maintained that the government’s decisions on Jammu and Kashmir is an “internal matter”. However, Mr. Jaishankar’s meetings in Brussels on the issue indicate a reach out by New Delhi to European countries after a number of politicians, including Members of the European Parliament, have filed questions over the past few weeks to be taken up when the parliament reopens on Monday after a six-week recess.

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