Home Ministry justifies EU Parliamentarians' visit to Kashmir in Rajya Sabha, but deflects question on why Indian MPs were barred

  • Opposition leaders raised various aspects of the complex issue, including communication blockade, arrest of local politicians and the government's refusal to allow Opposition members to visit the Valley, even as it facilitated the visit of Members of European Parliament to the sensitive region

  • The government on its part, merely repeated the official position in the Parliament, without going into detail

  • In response to a specific questions on why Indian legislators could not be allowed into Kashmir while European parliamentarians could visit the state, the Ministry of Home Affairs barely said that the MePs' visit was a private visit which allowed people-to-people contact

The clampdown in Kashmir Valley was discussed in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday as Opposition leaders raised various aspects of the complex issue, including communication blockade, arrest of local politicians and the government's refusal to allow Opposition members to visit the Valley, even as it facilitated the visit of Members of European Parliament to the sensitive region.

The government on its part, merely repeated the official position in the Parliament, without giving any additional details. In response to a specific question on why Indian legislators were not allowed into Kashmir while European parliamentarians were allowed, the Ministry of Home Affairs barely said that the MEPs' visit was a  private visit which allowed 'people-to-people contact'.

 Home Ministry justifies EU Parliamentarians visit to Kashmir in Rajya Sabha, but deflects question on why Indian MPs were barred

Representational image. PTI

Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy — in response to an unstarred question by Sukhram Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party — said, a group of European parliamentarians that recently visited Kashmir was on a "private visit" to the country.

"The government of Jammu and Kashmir has reported that a group of 27 Members of European Parliament (MEPs), who belonged to different political parties, including ruling and opposition parties, paid a private visit to India from 28 October, 2019, to 1 November, 2019, at the invitation of the International Institute for Non-aligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank," Reddy said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha. He also informed the House that an Indian delegation of MPs was not allowed to visit Kashmir due to security concerns.

However, Yadav's question had specifically asked for a clarification on why the government thought one visit was feasible, while another wasn't. The MP had also sought to know the justification for visit of the delegation of European MPs in current situation in Jammu and Kashmir.

The response provided did not touch upon the justification of the visit given the situation in the Valley. The government also did not clearly state that whether or not it sanctioned the visit.

Yadav had asked, "Whether government has given permission to the delegation of European MPs to meet citizens of Jammu and Kashmir to assess the current situation there; whether the delegation of European MPs was organised by an NGO; the justification for stopping the delegation of Indian MPs, which earlier went there to meet the citizens; and the justification for visit of the delegation of European MPs in current situation in Jammu and Kashmir?"

Opposition parties had attacked the government over the EU delegation's tour of Kashmir after Indian politicians and MPs were not allowed to travel to the Valley after abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status on 5 August.

Interestingly, the response to another question raised by Kerala Congress (M) MP Jose K Mani, touching upon a different aspect of the EU parliamentarians' visit, was also a word to word replica of the answer given to Yadav's question.

Mani had asked, "whether emboldened by the situation in the Kashmir valley coming under relative control, Government has mustered up the confidence that it can take the risk of allowing a delegation of EU parliamentarians to assess the ground realities; whether Government has been stringent so far in not allowing free access to Jammu and Kashmir especially the valley because of the potential for violence; and whether Government considers the visit of the EU delegation as an educative exercise aimed at diplomatic correction of misapprehensions created by anti-Indian lobbies?"

To another question on whether the Union government has "distracted" from its policy of not allowing any external intervention on the Jammu-Kashmir issue, Reddy stated that India's consistent position has been that issues, if any, with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.  "There is no scope for any third party role or mediation," the minister said.

The team of MEPs was the first foreign delegation to travel to Kashmir after Jammu and Kashmir's special status was revoked. The delegation was on a two-day visit to get a first-hand assessment of the situation there after the 5 August decision. Of the 27 MEPs who came to India, 23 went to Kashmir.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Nov 20, 2019 18:25:10 IST