NGO invited European lawmakers with promise to arrange meeting with PMO, claim reports; two MEPs dropped for demanding unfettered access during Kashmir tour

European Union (EU) lawmakers, who were on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday and Wednesday, were promised a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a letter from the NGO that organised the visit revealed

FP Staff October 30, 2019 15:25:14 IST
NGO invited European lawmakers with promise to arrange meeting with PMO, claim reports; two MEPs dropped for demanding unfettered access during Kashmir tour
  • EU lawmakers, who were on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday and Wednesday, were promised a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi

  • The invitation that went to 30 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) said that Modi wanted to meet them as 'influential decision-makers from the European Union'

  • Liberal Democrat MEPs Chris Davies and Irina Von Weise told The Hindu that they were dropped from the India visit after they asked for unfettered access during the Kashmir tour

European Union (EU) lawmakers, who were on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Tuesday and Wednesday, were promised a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, a letter from the NGO that organised the visit revealed.

The invitation that went to 30 Members of European Parliament (MEPs) said that Modi wanted to meet them as “influential decision-makers from the European Union”, The Telegraph reported.

NGO invited European lawmakers with promise to arrange meeting with PMO claim reports two MEPs dropped for demanding unfettered access during Kashmir tour

Members of European Union Parliamentary delegation during a shikara ride at Dal Lake in Srinagar. PTI

Brussels-based Madi Sharma, who accompanied the delegation to India and runs a non-governmental organisation Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT) sent the invitations, which detail the MEPs’ itinerary to include meeting with Modi and senior officials, a visit to Jammu and Kashmir and a press conference on Wednesday.

“I am organising a prestigious VIP meeting with the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi and it is my privilege to offer this invitation to you. As you will be aware Prime Minister Modi had a landslide victory in the recent elections in India and is planning to continue on his path of growth and development for India the country and its people. In that respect, he would like to meet influential decision makers from the European Union,” Sharma’s invitation read.

Sharma claimed that all expenses for the visit would be borne by the Delhi-based International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS). The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also clarified that the it “is not involved and not coordinating the visit”.

The invitation letter, dated 7 October, was released by another Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament, Chris Davies, who said would not “join a PR stunt”.

Liberal Democrat MEPs Chris Davies and Irina Von Weise told The Hindu that they were dropped from the India visit after they asked for unfettered access during the Kashmir tour. Despite confirmation from the MEPs on the invitation, Sharma cancelled their 10 October meeting at a short notice, stating that she could not “take any more MEPs at this stage”. “I replied (to the invitation) that I was happy to accept on the condition that during my time in Kashmir I would be free to go wherever I wish and talk to whoever I wish, unaccompanied by military, police or security forces but accompanied by journalists,” Davies said.

In a statement on Tuesday, Davies said, “I am not prepared to take part in a PR stunt for the Modi government and pretend that all is well. It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir, and the world needs to start taking notice.”

Thierry Mariani, the French Far-Right Rassemblement National MEP told AFP that there is scepticism even among the European Right-wingers about the nature of the visit. He stated that “we are going to see the situation in Kashmir, at least what they want to show us”.

This was the first foreign delegation to visit Jammu and Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 on 5 August.

On her Twitter account, Sharma describes herself as a “Social Capitalist : International Business Broker , Education Entrepreneur; Speaker”. On its website, WESTT claims to be “a leading women’s think tank with global dimensions, focussing on the economic, environmental and social development of women. At a political level it is also lobbies to raise awareness on key issues but never for commercial gain”. Sharma has written for the New Delhi Times, a publication started by the founder of IINS, with the byline ‘EU Correspondent’. She has written on various international issues and trade policies.

On Monday, 27 MEPs had arrived in Delhi, but only 23 went to Srinagar. They drew criticism for being a part of Far-Right parties, including Germany’s AFD, UK’s Brexit Party, Italy’s Forta Italia, France’s National Rally party and Poland’s Law and Justice Party.

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