New Delhi claims the visit will improve visitors’ understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region
Nearly 30 Euro M.P.s, drawn mainly from extreme right-wing parties, will on Tuesday be the first international delegation to visit India-held Kashmir since authorities imposed a security clampdown in August to back the ending of the region’s autonomy.
While the Indian government backs the visit, the European parliament and European Union hierarchy has not been involved, raising some diplomatic doubts. Several European embassies in New Delhi were unaware of the visit until Monday.
Muslim-majority Kashmir, which is also claimed by Pakistan and in the grip of an insurgency for 30 years, has been in the international spotlight since the New Delhi government’s move to tighten its grip on the Himalayan region.
“The delegation of MEPs is not on an official visit in India and came here at the invitation of a non-government group,” said an E.U. official in India, speaking on condition of anonymity. “We are not organizing any of their meetings.”
The group is dominated by right-wing deputies from Poland, France and Britain. They met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday. They are due to go to India-held Kashmir on Tuesday and return on Wednesday from the visit which the Indian government said aims to give deputies “a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.”
Fearing unrest, the government cut telephone and internet lines and imposed a near curfew in many parts after the decades-old autonomy was ended. The measures were recently eased, with telephone lines restored, but the population still has no internet.
Thierry Mariani, a Euro M.P. for France’s far-right National Rally, told AFP “we are going to see the situation in Kashmir, at least what they want to show us.”