A group of 27 member of European Union Parliament were allowed to visit Kashmir during the lockdown as they wanted to ‘get a sense’ of the impact of terrorism on people’s lives in Kashmir, the central government informed the Lok Sabha today.
At the same time, said the Home Ministry, Indian MPs were prevented from visiting the state out of concerns for their own safety.
“..the MEPs [Members of European Parliament] had expressed their desire that they would like to visit Kashmir to understand how terrorism is affecting India and how this has been a challenge for India,” said Kishan Reddy, junior minister in India’s ministry of home affairs — which is in charge of internal security.
“The Indian delegation of MPs were not allowed to visit Kashmir Valley due to imminent law & order and security concerns,” he added, when a group of MPs wanted to know why members of the Indian Parliament were not allowed in to a place where EU parliament members were allowed.
Reddy said the visit was successful in giving the European politicians an idea of the situation on the ground.
“They got a sense of the threat of terrorism and how terrorism poses a threat to India especially in the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir. Such exchanges promote deeper people to people contact and ultimately it feeds into the larger relationship which any two countries would like to develop.”
The Home Ministry said it was informed by the government of Jammu & Kashmir that a total of 27 EU parliamentarians visited the state for three days, starting from Oct 28.
The MEPs are the only foreign government representatives to visit the Kashmir valley after India annulled the special status enjoyed by the erstwhile Jammu & Kashmir state in August.
The Indian MPs also asked the government whether it had arranged for these European MPs to hold discussions with individuals and political parties in Jammu & Kashmir as part of the visit.
In response, the Home Ministry said it was not unusual for the government to arrange meetings with locals for visiting foreign dignitaries.
“Meetings were facilitated for the MEPs, as has been done previously on familiarization visits for the visiting Members of Parliament of different countries,” Reddy said.
The visit had drawn heavy criticism from the opposition and some political observers, who were afraid that it would lead to an ‘internationalization’ of India’s territorial dispute with Pakistan over the northern hill state.
India’s first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, had burned his hands, trying to get international mediation in the dispute in 1948.
The United Nations, in the same year, came up with a plan for Pakistan to withdraw its fighters from the areas under its occupation and for India to bring down its military strength in its portion. Following this, the people of Kashmir were to be given a chance to vote whether they wanted to join the Indian Union or Pakistan.
However, neither Pakistan nor India withdrew their forces, and the commission set up by the resolution of 1948 eventually declared its failure in December 1949.
Since then, successive Indian governments have been wary of involving outsiders as mediators in India’s dispute with Pakistan, which currently occupies about half of the former Jammu & Kashmir kingdom.