A group of 15 envoys and diplomats had interacted with security officials, politicians and civil society representatives over a recent two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir

The United States state department on Saturday reacted to the recent visit to Jammu and Kashmir by a group of foreign envoys, including the US ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, and termed it an “important step”. The same tweet by the state department, however, added that it remained “concerned” by the continued detention of political leaders and residents along with the restrictions on the internet.

A group of 15 envoys and diplomats had interacted with security officials, politicians and civil society representatives over a recent two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir organised by the government since Jammu & Kashmir’s special status was revoked on August 5, 2019, and restrictions on movement and communication were imposed along with detention of several political leaders.

“Closely following @USAmbIndia & other foreign diplomats’ recent trip to Jammu & Kashmir. Important step. We remain concerned by the detention of political leaders and residents, and Internet restrictions. We look forward to a return to normalcy,” said the tweet from the state department, which was signed off by the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, Alice Wells.

Wells will travel to Sri Lanka, India, and Pakistan, from January 13-22, the following tweet by the state department added.

The group of envoys were briefed by security officials and army commanders on the ground situation, the threat of terrorism and the situation along the Line of Control (LoC) after they landed in Srinagar.

The purpose of the visit was to give the envoys a first-hand account of the government’s efforts to normalise the situation but members of the opposition criticised the move and questioned the government for denying a similar opportunity to the Indian politicians.

The diplomats also met former legislators and ministers led by Altaf Bukhari, former Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) minister and interacted with civil society representatives, members of panchayat, activists, musicians and the local media.

Most of these people had also met members of the European Parliament (MEP) who had travelled to Kashmir as part of a controversial private visit organised by a think-tank in October.

The diplomats were from the US, South Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, Fiji, the Maldives, Norway, the Philippines, Morocco, Argentina, Peru, Niger, Nigeria, Guyana and Togo.

On the second day, the group met with civil society representatives and community leaders in Jammu and with the residents of a Kashmiri migrant camp on the outskirts of the city.

The state department’s comment follows a Supreme Court order on Friday asking for a review of the restrictions on internet connection in the region while noting that freedom of speech and conducting business on the internet were protected under the constitution.

The police authorities in Jammu and Kashmir held a security review meeting in the light of the SC verdict on Saturday.

In another important step on Friday, the Jammu and Kashmir administration revoked the stringent Public Safety Act against 26 people who were lodged in various jails paving the way for their release. In December last year, five politicians, including a former state minister and three former legislators were released.

Three former chief ministers of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir, namely, Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah and political rival Mehbooba Mufti, however, are still under detention along with several other regional leaders over fears that their release may be against public safety.

(Courtesy: Hindustan Times)

Hindustan Times