New Delhi: US Ambassador to India Kenneth Juster will be part of a 15-member delegation of envoys that is going to visit Jammu and Kashmir Thursday to assess the situation in the region, ThePrint has learnt.
Juster is set to visit Srinagar and Jammu as part of a two-day tour, which the Narendra Modi government is organising for foreign envoys, multiple sources told ThePrint.
The move comes three months after a US State Department official had said during a Congressional hearing that neither the US envoy nor other American diplomats were able to visit J&K after August as the Indian government did not allow access.
Alice Wells, US State Department’s acting secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs, had also said the US has no issues with the scrapping of Article 370 as it is India’s internal matter, but it is concerned about the human rights situation in the erstwhile state.
Wells had also voiced US’ concerns “about the manner in which Indian authorities have implemented” the decision in J&K by imposing severe restrictions on communication and detaining local political leaders.
The Modi government’s clampdown had come in the wake of its 5 August decision to scrap Article 370 and bifurcate J&K into two union territories — J&K and Ladakh.
The Kashmir visit
The Ministry of External Affairs is now set to hold the tour along with the Ministry of Home Affairs in a bid to show “first-hand the efforts being made by the Government to bring the situation to normal”.
But more than showing the Valley functioning normally, the main idea behind the tour is to make the envoys explore investment opportunities in J&K in view of the upcoming Global Investors’ Meet, based on the theme, ‘Explore, Invest and Grow’, said sources. J&K is expected to host the meet in April.
Other attending members include ambassadors and resident commissioners from African, Latin American and Asian countries, the sources said.
A top official involved in the process told ThePrint that some envoys who are based in Delhi have been calling upon the Modi government to arrange a visit to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
“Our consistent position has been that we may consider the request only after analysing the security situation and checking the situation on the ground with the J&K administration,” the official told ThePrint.
However, the sources said envoys from European countries declined to participate at the last moment as they are keen on making a “surprise visit” rather than a planned one to assess the “real situation”.