New Delhi: A guided tour with air-tight security and a carefully curated agenda by the Modi government does not appear to have allayed the misgivings of all the 15 foreign envoys who visited the Kashmir valley last week, ThePrint has learnt.
The delegation consisted of envoys from the US, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Maldives, Togo, Fiji, Niger, South Korea, Philippines, Morocco, Nigeria, Argentina, Peru, Guyana and Norway. The team was led by Vikas Swarup, Secretary (West), Ministry of External Affairs.
According to diplomatic sources, the envoys found the Valley looking “normal” and without any significant danger of massive protest marches or roadblocks.
The party pooper, however, was the US, which came out with a statement expressing “concerns” over the restrictions. US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster was part of the group on this his first official visit since 5 August when Article 370 was scrapped.
Within a day of Juster’s return to Delhi, the State Department Saturday expressed concerns over the Internet restrictions and detention of local political leaders there for over five months now.
Closely following @USAmbIndia & other foreign diplomats’ recent trip to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step. We remain concerned by detention of political leaders and residents, and Internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normalcy. AGW
— State_SCA (@State_SCA) January 11, 2020
Earlier during a Congressional hearing in October, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Alice Wells stated neither the Ambassador nor any other diplomat from the US Embassy in India were allowed to visit Srinagar to assess the situation there.
Wells will be visiting Delhi next week from 15 to 18 January when she is expected to take up the issue of restoring normalcy in Kashmir with the Modi government.
‘Overall good trip’
Another envoy who refused to be identified thought it was “overall a good trip’’.
“It was a pleasant visit. We did not find anything of major concern. People mostly complained about the ongoing communication lockdown, and concerns over jobs and education,’’ he said.
The envoy, however, added that a meeting with local political leaders who are under arrest, was not granted, nor was a press conference held.
According to an Indian official, the envoys were quite “satisfied with the visit.”
Vietnamese Ambassador to India Pham Sanh Chau said, he was “very happy with the current situation”.
“My observation is that we see normalcy in the daily life of the people, which is a very positive sign … Seeing is believing,” he said.
Official sources told ThePrint that more such visits to the Valley are planned in the coming months in the run-up to the Global Investors’ Meet there in April.