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A 15-member delegation from countries, including United states of America, reached Srinagar today for a two-day visit to take stock of the ground situation in Jammu and Kashmir. Members from the European Union skipped the visit as they did not want a “guided tour” of Jammu and Kashmir, according to reports.

This is the second time that diplomats have been given access to visit the state after it was bifurcated into two union territories – Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh last year.

 

Diplomats from Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Niger, Nigeria, Morroco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh and Peru are visiting the Kashmir Valley. Diplomats from Australia and several Gulf nations, who were expected to visit the valley, dropped out due to “scheduling” reasons.

Last year in October, 23 EU members were in the Valley for two days to assess the situation, a move that wasn’t welcomed by the opposition. The opposition wasn’t allowed to visit the valley, as a delegation led by Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was turned away from the Srinagar airport.

The itinerary of the diplomats includes a visit to Srinagar and Jammu, interacting with the locals and getting briefings from the army. Earlier today the diplomats dined with local political leaders of the valley, led by former minister Altaf Bukhari at the Governor’s House.

They are also expected to meet Lt Governor G C Murmu as well as civil society members.

Raveesh Kumar, official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), said that the main objective of the visit is to let the envoys see the first hand efforts of the government to normalise situation.

On August 5 last year, the union government had revoked Article 370 which granted special status to state of Jammu and Kashmir. Since the abrogation, several political leaders, including former chief ministers Mehbooba Mufti, Omar Abdullah and Farooq Abdullah have been detained. Internet services remain suspended in the valley.

Mehbooba Mufti’s Peoples Democratic Party attacked the union government’s move inviting a 16-member foreign delegation to the valley.

“@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?,” said the official Twitter handle of PDP.

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