A fresh group of foreign diplomats will go on a two-day visit Jammu and Kashmir this week to see first-hand the ground situation in the new union territory. This would be the second time a foreign delegation will visit Jammu and Kashmir since the Centre scrapped the special status of the state granted under Article 370 of the Constitution in August and bifurcated it into two union territories.
"The government has decided to take around 16 India-based diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir for a two day visit," a senior official told NDTV. The envoys are from the Organisation of Islamic Corporation, ASEAN, European Union and Latin America. The ministry has asked the respective countries to pick the visiting diplomat.
So far, the plan is to take the diplomats to Srinagar on January 9, where the Army would brief them on ground situation in the Kashmir Valley. The next day, they would be taken to Jammu to meet some prominent people. The final plan is yet to be worked out.
"The government wants to deflect international condemnation and this way they are hopeful," the official explained. Several nations and the US House of Representatives have expressed concern over the continuing restrictions in Jammu and Kashmir, including on internet, on since August 5.
A series of restrictions were put in place at ahead of the Union minister Amit Shah's announcement in parliament about the government's move. The government said the measures -- including a ban on internet and phone services and the detention of political leaders in the Valley -- were meant to prevent any law and order issue.
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".