After Kashmir trip, EU delegation says we support India
23 members of the European Union (EU) were among the "lucky ones" who were allowed to visit Kashmir, the region which has been on edge since August 5 after Article 370 was negated. Their visit, mired by controversies, was meant to judge the on-ground situation in the Valley. Today, the MPs addressed select media and said they support India's fight against terrorism.
Their visit was naturally much-publicized, as this was the first time foreign dignitaries were given permission to visit Kashmir. They moved in bullet-proof vehicles, amid heavy security, and ended their trip with a boat ride in the famous Dal Lake. As they toured Kashmir, opposition leaders fumed asking Centre why Indian politicians weren't given access. In fact, BJP's Subramanian Swamy also called it "blunder".
Briefing select media (other than Kashmiri outlets) about their visit, the delegation said they were largely satisfied. However, one MP took a strong offense at being likened to Nazi lovers, a term which AIMIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi used yesterday. "We are very angry at being called Nazi lovers. If we were, we would have not been elected," one MP said as per India Today.
The delegation also said the news of five laborers being killed by terrorists last night was distressing. "We, the international delegation, fully support India in its efforts for lasting peace and end of terror... We thank the Indian government and the local administration for their warm hospitality," one of the MPs said. Another one said locals want development like the rest of the country.
Further, the delegation clarified it won't be submitting a report in EU about Kashmir since Article 370 is India's internal matter. "We have no interest in Indian politics. We just wanted to meet the common people. Coming to Kashmir was a pleasant experience," one leader said. The team also promoted conversations between India and Pakistan, at a time when tension between neighbors has peaked.
Reportedly one of the MPs expressed concern over Kashmir's future. "The state has all elements to become a dynamic region of India. Kashmir was backward before (abrogation of Article 370). There is not hope that the change in status will help reverse the situation," he said. Meanwhile, MP Nicolaus Fest wondered why the Centre wasn't this easy on Indian politicians and stopped them.
Nicolaus Fest, European Union MP, in Srinagar on his visit to Jammu Kashmir: I think if you let in European Union parliamentarians, you should also let in opposition politicians from India. So there is some kind of disbalance, the government should somehow address it. pic.twitter.com/PJZ6Vjs8sv— ANI (@ANI) October 30, 2019
While most of the MPs seemed to take a softer stand, Chris Davies, an MP of Liberal Democrats party, said this was nothing but a "PR stunt". He was also invited to be a part of the delegation but opted out of it, as he wanted unadulterated access to locals. "It is very clear that democratic principles are being subverted in Kashmir," he said.