A delegation of foreign envoys in India arrived in Srinagar on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday for assessing the situation following the scrapping of its special status in 2019.
The delegation, mainly comprising representatives from European Union countries, arrived amid heightened security arrangements. It is scheduled to visit Jammu on Thursday.
ANI reported that the group of 24 diplomats from foreign missions were accorded a traditional welcome in Budgam district.
The diplomats visited Magam block in Budgam district where they were welcomed by District Development Council (DDC) Chairman Nazir Ahmad Khan and other panchayat representatives. Thereafter, Khan also addressed the envoys.
The foreign envoys were briefed on Panchayati Raj and grievance redressal through Back to villages and Block, thus elaborating how the administration reaches the doorstep of people.
The delegation also interacted with locals.
French envoy Emmanuel Lenain and Italian envoy Vincenzo de Luca interacted with locals in Magam block. Foreign diplomats from Chile, Brazil, Cuba, Bolivia, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Portugal, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Bangladesh, Malawi, Eritrea, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, Malaysia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and the EU are visiting.
The latest visit of foreign envoys comes in the backdrop of DDC polls, which saw huge participation, and restoration of 4G mobile internet in the entire region after 18 months, which many see as a return to full normalcy in the union territory.
This will be the first visit by foreign diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Two batches of foreign diplomats had earlier visited J-K in January and February last year after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.
This is the third visit by foreign dignitaries to the union territory since the revocation of its special status. Last year, envoys from 17 nations including the US had visited Jammu and Kashmir. The team had also comprised ambassadors from Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Uzbekistan, Niger, Nigeria, Morocco, Guyana, Argentina, Philippines, Norway, Maldives, Fiji, Togo, Bangladesh, and Peru.
Three months after the Centre withdrew the special status of Jammu and Kashmir by revoking Article 370 of the Constitution, and bifurcated it into two union territories, a delegation of 23 EU MPs was taken on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the region by the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank.
'Exercise to counter propaganda'
Officials said the envoys would receive first-hand information on the development work undertaken by the union territory administration after abrogation of the special status.
This is a diplomatic exercise being undertaken by the government to counter the propaganda that is being orchestrated by Pakistan at international foras, the officials said.
Showcasing the efforts of the Centre for ensuring democracy at the grass-root level, the newly-elected members of the DDC would meet, besides holding a meeting with a few prominent citizens and administrative secretaries.
Strengthening of democratic institutions at the grass-root level would be significantly highlighted, the officials said, adding that during a presentation, the envoys would be shown how panchayats have been empowered by giving them financial powers.
On the second day, the ambassadors will visit Jammu where they will meet Lt Gov Manoj Sinha besides some of the DDC members and representatives of some social organisations, they said.
The envoys will be briefed about the security situation by senior officers involved with the law-and-order situation in the Kashmir Valley, especially Pakistan's attempts to push terrorists into India through the Line of Control, and also about the frequent ceasefire violations, they said.
(With inputs from agencies)