Congress Slams Foreign Envoys’ Visit to Kashmir; Calls it ‘Political Tourism’

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Congress leader Jairam Ramesh.

Abdul Bari Masoud | Caravan Daily

NEW DELHI – Terming the “guided tour” of 15 foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir as part of the Centre’s “double standard,” main opposition the Congress on Thursday demanded, instead, the initiation of a meaningful political process in J and K, coupled with the immediate release of all the Kashmir leaders. It also sought an end to the “political tourism of foreign ambassadors” in a guided trip to the troubled region.

Addressing a press conference at the party headquarters, former Union minister Jairam Ramesh said the Centre’s “face-saving exercise” through use of envoys would further alienate the people and add to the distrust among the people.

He alleged that instead of allowing visits of leaders of the main Opposition parties to Kashmir, the Modi government has been resorting to “weird acts” to convey a wrong message to the people across the nation and beyond that “all is well” in J&K. “Curiously, the leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad, who is also a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, has not been allowed to enter his home state,” Jairam Ramesh said.

He noted that the government faced all-round criticism for “clandestinely” organising the European lawmakers’ tour on October 30, wherein only select officials and individuals were allowed to meet the delegation. Following criticism, the government was forced to admit that it was “an international broker” who organised the tour and that it was not an “official tour”.

Ramesh, however, said the government has stated that the present visit was an official one. “Our objection is not related to the visit, but to the fact this is happening at a time when our own political leaders, our own MPs are not allowed to visit J&K. They are barred. So, what purpose the visit of these ambassadors would serve,” he asked.

“Three former CMs of J&K are under house-arrest for months; former CM Ghulam Nabi Azad had to approach the Supreme Court to seek permission for a visit to J&K.” As regards the government’s approach to Indian leaders, he referred to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s aborted visit to J&K, some time ago, when he was not even allowed to get out of the Srinagar airport.

“When our parliamentary delegation cannot undertake a visit, our MPs cannot visit, our Leader of Opposition cannot visit, the former president of the Congress Party cannot visit, what is the purpose of taking this international delegation,” he asked, and added that the Congress party wanted the government to ensure direct access for MPs and others to meet all detained leaders at the earliest.

Taking a dig at the government, Jairam Ramesh said no “positive political activity took place in the last five months” after the arbitrary revocation of Article 370 and Article 35A. “The Congress party also wants meaningful political activities initiated. Prime Minister Modi and home minister Amit Shah are only making statements and counter-statements, claims and counter-claims, vis-à-vis the NRC and the like,” he alleged.

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