Centre’s Mission Kashmir 2.0: US ambassador among 15 envoys arrive on two day visit

Srinagar, Jan 09:  Centre embarked on `Mission Kashmir 2.0’ on Thursday when they brought 15 foreign diplomats in a special charter plane for on the spot assessment of the situation in Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370.

The delegation included US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster.  Besides, diplomats from Brazil, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, and Nigeria were also part of the team. Indian diplomats also accompanied the envoys to Kashmir.

Soon after landing in Kashmir, the delegation drove to army’s 15 corps headquarters where they were briefed by top army commanders on the situation. 

Later they met several politicians and civil society groups’ separately. Tight security arrangements were made to ensure incident free visit.

A group of expelled and current PDP leaders led by former finance minister Altaf Bukhari and former tourism minister Ghulam Hassan Mir also met the delegation. 

“It was free and fair discussion. They raised certain questions and we apprised them about the pain we felt when Article 370 was abrogated. More political activities will be seen after incarcerated political leaders are released”, said Bukhari.

Democratic Party National (DPN) president Ghulam Hassan Mir said the envoys wanted to know what happened after abrogation of Article 370. “Abrogation of Article 370 was a shock, but the government of India managed it in a way that there was no bloodshed. Government of India used to say that Article 370 was a hurdle for development. Ball is now in their court to prove this claim,” Mir said.

Javid Ahmad Beigh, former PDP legislator from Baramulla, said they demanded statehood for Jammu and Kashmir and sought talks between India and Pakistan.

“Peace is not possible unless there is dialogue between India and Pakistan. We told them how Kashmiris are suffering in absence of internet. We also sought protection in jobs and land. We raised all issues concerning common people,” Beigh said.

PDP leaders Rafi Ahmad Mir, Noor Mohammad Sheikh, Abdul Majeed Paddar, Abdul Rahim Rather, and Congress leader Shoib Lone were also part of the delegation.

Youth political leaders Tauseef Raina and Junaid Mir also met the envoys.  “We told them dialogue is must to resolve all the problems. We told them there is no space for extremism. We have seen bloodshed and want to become part of solution not the problem,” Tauseef said.

Some lesser known civil society groups, singers, activists also met the visiting delegations. The envoys are also scheduled to meet Lieutenant Governor Girish Chandra Murmu on Friday in Jammu.

This is the first official visit by diplomats since abrogation of the J&K’s special status on August 5 last year.   In October, over 20 EU Parliamentarians, most of them from far-right groups arrived in Kashmir on an unofficial visit. The visit had suffered a setback when Kashmir gave a thumbs-down to the visit of European Union (EU) parliamentarians by observing a complete protest shutdown.

Envoys brought to endorse claims of normalcy: NC

Monitor News Bureau

Srinagar Jan 9: National Conference Thursday said it was disappointment with the way the foreign envoys were brought to Kashmir to “endorse the Centre’s claims of normalcy”.

In a statement, the party said the visit was a repeat of the visit of European Members of Parliament and the envoys were brought on a guided tour.

“The envoys have been brought here on a guided tour, where access has been severely limited to those handpicked individuals who will toe the government line,” NC spokesperson said in the statement.

Envoys from 15 countries, including US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

“National Conference wishes to ask these envoys that if the situation in Jammu and Kashmir is ‘normal’, then why are scores of people, including three former Chief Ministers, under detention for almost 160 days and why have the people of Jammu and Kashmir been denied access to the internet for over five months?” he asked.

The spokesperson added that while the rest of India is told that peaceful dissent is the cornerstone of democracy, the same right “does not seem to extend” to the people of J&K.

“Are the people of J&K expected to live without the fundamental rights accorded to other Indian citizens?” the spokesperson said.

He added that while these sorts of visits “may provide short-lived propaganda victories, true normalcy will only be achieved when all detainees are released, communications and internet restored and genuine political activity resumed.”

Attempt to normalise clampdown: PDP

Monitor News Bureau

Srinagar, Jan 9: The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) on Thursday said the visit of envoys of various countries to Jammu and Kashmir was an attempt by the government to “normalise its clampdown” in the Valley, daring the Centre to allow the dignitaries to meet the detained political leaders.

“Today that @PMOIndia lets a 2nd batch of envoys to “see” the situation in #Kashmir, it only seems like an attempt to normalize the Govts own clampdown. The dare is on @PMOIndia will they ever let these Foreign Envoys meet political detainees who are jailed since 160 days now?” the PDP said on its official Twitter handle.

Envoys from 15 countries, including US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster, arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

The envoys, who are here as part of the government’s diplomatic outreach to rebut Pakistan’s propaganda on the Kashmir issue, met some political leaders, including former PDP leader Syed Altaf Bukhari, soon after their arrival.

The PDP, commenting on a meeting of breakaway leaders of the party led by Bukhari with Lieutenant Governor G C Murmu earlier this week, said the government “jails those who aided its democracy and strings up puppets who are ready to bargain at the cheapest price”.

“The government should understand that those who really love Kashmiri soil are not for sale!” it said.

‘Modi, Shah can’t be coerced’

Art 370 was hollow: Muzaffar Beigh

Monitor News Bureau

Srinagar, Jan 9: Echoing former minister Altaf Bukhari’s views on the same subject, senior PDP leader Muzaffar Hussain Beigh Thursday said people in Kashmir needed to move beyond Article 370 as the law had become “hollow.”

Beigh, who addressed a presser in Jammu said PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah “successfully managed to establish peace” in Jammu and Kashmir following the abrogation of the state’s special status and its division and downgrading into two Union Territories.

“Article 370 was a hollow and there was nothing in it. We have to move forward and think beyond it,” he said.

Holding party president and former CM Mehbooba Mufti responsible for the present “mess” in Jammu and Kashmir, Beigh said Mehbooba made “harsh statements” and “tried to coerce Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.”

“If you want to talk about issues relating to people of Jammu and Kashmir, you will have to talk in a dignified and civilized manner. You can’t achieve anything by coercing Prime Minister, Home Minister and National Security Advisor,” he said.

Criticism of visit unfounded: MEA

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, Jan 9: The External Affairs Ministry on Thursday said the objective of the visit by foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir was for them to see firsthand efforts to normalise the situation there and termed the criticism that it was a guided tour unfounded.

Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said a similar visit to Kashmir can be organised in future including by EU envoys.

The team of 15 envoys which included the U.S. Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster arrived in Srinagar on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

Kumar said that the visit was facilitated by the government and the envoys met security officials, political leaders, civil society groups and media.

“The objective of the visit is to see first-hand efforts to normalise the situation in Kashmir,” he said.

“The visit to J&K was organised considering prevailing situation,” he said.

Asked about political leaders who met the group, Kumar said the visit by the envoys to Kashmir is not yet over.

The EU envoys wanted to visit Kashmir in a group and the government did not extend invite to all, he said.

The criticism that this is a guided tour is unfounded, he said.

Govt adopting double standards: Cong

Press Trust of India

New Delhi, Jan 9: The Congress on Thursday accused the government of adopting double standards by resorting to “guided tours” to Jammu and Kashmir for foreign envoys, but not allowing Indian politicians to go there.

The party’s attack on the government came hours after US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster and envoys from 15 other countries arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.

“Government adopting double standards by allowing foreign envoys to visit J&K, but not Indian politicians,” senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh said at a press conference.

“We demand that the government allows unfettered access to J&K to all politicians and not resort to guided tours for envoys,” he said.

The Congress wants meaningful political activities in Jammu and Kashmir, Ramesh said.

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