An Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) officer stands guard on a road in Srinagar on October 31. (Image: Reuters)
Led by European Union ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, a delegation of 24 foreign envoys arrived in Srinagar on February 17. The two-day visit is aimed at assessing the ground situation in Jammu & Kashmir following the repeal of Article 370 - the law which granted semi-autonomous status to the erstwhile state.
This is the third visit of foreign envoys to J&K after its bifurcation into two union territories - with Ladakh being formed as a separate UT. The bifurcation came into effect on October 31, 2019 - over two months after Article 370 was abrogated.
Unlike the previous two visits, the envoys would also be visiting areas outside Srinagar in the Kashmir Valley.
The delegation, shortly after landing in Srinagar, was taken to a government college in central Kashmir's Budgam where they interacted with students and members of the district development council (DDC).
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Visuals shared by news agencies showed the delegation members having free interactions with members of the DDC, the local administration and civil society groups at the government college in Magam area of Budgam.
No political party representatives were scheduled to meet the delegation, but, according to The Hindu
, leaders of BJP's J&K unit and the recently-formed Apni Party can meet the envoys.
The delegation would also be meeting local news editors, elected representatives, and civil society workers at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre, located at the banks of Dal Lake in Srinagar.
Several shops in the city were, however, reportedly closed as a shutdown was observed by some of the locals to mark the arrival of the foreign dignitaries.
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Days before the scheduled visit of envoys, the government restored 4G internet connection in Jammu & Kashmir. The resumption of high-speed internet came nearly 18 months after they were snapped in August 2019.
The delegation which is visiting J&K includes envoys of Bangladesh, Malawi, Eritrea, Cote d’Ivoire, Chile, Brazil, Cuba, Bolivia, Estonia, Finland, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Portugal, EU, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Ghana, Senegal, Malaysia, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.
The delegation, on the second day of their visit, would be visiting Jammu where they will hold interaction with various civil society groups.
The last two visits of foreign envoys were facilitated in October 2019 and February 2020, months after the special status of J&K was repealed.
The previous visits had drawn flak from the Indian opposition, which alleged that the government was not allowing them to visit the Valley while calling foreign ambassadors to assess the situation.