- The two-day visit by 16 envoys begins today
- Parliamentarians from European Union visited J&K in October
- The government scrapped J&K's special status in October
Countries from the European Union are not part of the foreign delegates' team visiting Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday at the government's invitation. The US ambassador is a part of the 16-member delegation. Diplomatic sources from Europe had told NDTV that the envoys did not want a "guided tour" of Jammu and Kashmir and would visit later and meet the people they want to meet.
Government sources told NDTV that envoys of the European Union have welcomed the idea of a trip to Jammu and Kashmir, but many of them said it was short notice this time and they look forward to going at a later date. The situation on the ground in Jammu and Kashmir has "vastly improved", they added.
Parliamentarians from the European Union had visited Jammu and Kashmir in October - three months after the government scrapped the special status of the state granted under Article 370 of the Constitution and bifurcated it into two union territories. During the visit - meant to check the ground situation - they met locals and were briefed by security forces. That visit was in a private capacity.
A similar schedule has been planned for the two-day tour that begins today, which would be attended by 16 envoys from the US, Latin America and Africa. Diplomats from Australia and several Gulf nations, who were expected to go, have dropped out due to what they called "scheduling" reasons.
"EU envoys don't want a guided tour of Kashmir. We want to meet people freely of our own choosing," a source told NDTV. The official said some of the envoys are also keen on meeting the three former chief ministers - Farooq and Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti - who have been in detention since the Centre announced the move on August 5.
The confinement of Kashmir's political leaders and the ban on internet, which have run into the sixth month, are among the restrictions that have raised concerns abroad. Several nations and the US House of Representatives have referred to the matter.
It is to allay these concerns that the government has arranged for the two-day visit, home ministry sources had told NDTV.
The restrictions -- put in place ahead of Union minister Amit Shah's announcement in parliament on August 5 about the government's move -- were meant to prevent any law and order issue, the government has said.
In October, the government had allowed 23 lawmakers from the European Union to visit Jammu and Kashmir -- a move that left the opposition furious. Till then, the opposition had not been allowed to visit the state. A delegation led by Congress's Rahul Gandhi had been turned away from the Srinagar airport.
In Parliament, the ministry of home affairs had explained the move, saying: "Such exchanges promote deeper people to people contact and ultimately it feeds into the larger relationship which any two countries would like to develop".