A day before India hosts foreign diplomats in Jammu and Kashmir, Pakistan has once again launched its anti-India rhetoric, calling it a “guided tour”. A delegation of 20 diplomats from Africa, the Middle East, and Europe will be visiting the Union Territory on February 17 and 18.
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Taking note of the upcoming visit, Pakistan foreign office has alleged that the trip is part of India’s “efforts to mislead the world community”.
Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri said: “Such guided tours are a smokescreen aimed at diverting international attention from India’s egregious human rights violations in IIOJK (Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir), and creating a false impression of normalcy.”
The visit has come days after the Indian government restored 4G internet services in the Valley; the internet services were curtailed in August 2019. According to reports, this is the fourth visit of foreign delegates to India since the Narendra Modi government scrapped Article 370 in August 2019, stripping the erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state of its special status.
The South Asian neighbors, India and Pakistan, have been at loggerheads over Kashmir since their independence in 1947. Tensions between the two countries had increased after New Delhi scrapped provisions of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution to withdraw J&K’s special status and bifurcated it into two Union Territories, inviting the ire of Islamabad.
Pakistan has accused India of committing human rights violations in Kashmir, but the latter has rejected such claims. India has asserted that the abrogation of Article 370 was its internal matter and has strongly criticized Pakistan for making “irresponsible statements” and provocative anti-India rhetoric over the issue.
According to an India Today analysis, “Kashmir has been a buffer zone for Pakistan in its security strategic formulation. It has served Pakistan well in formulating its Kashmir policy. A separate rule of law in Jammu and Kashmir meant that information of Pakistan’s direct and sponsored activities on either side of the Line of Control in the state was problematic and not always smooth.
“Pakistan’s deep state has infiltrated various levels of public life in Kashmir Valley and finds it easy to operate from its bases in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. With local government coming under direct control of New Delhi would now mean all information would reach the central government directly.”
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Pakistan has criticized the upcoming visit and said: “The visit would mean nothing if there is no access to all the areas and possibility to freely interact with Kashmiri people and the civil society in an atmosphere free of intimidation.”
As per the media reports, the envoys would be informed about the development works undertaken since the abrogation of Article 370. They will meet the elected members of the District Development Council. The officials said the strengthening of democratic institutions at the grassroots level would be significantly highlighted.
Meanwhile, National Conference party leader and former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah has tweeted that he is being locked up in his home with no explanation. He claimed apart from him and his father, his sister and her children were also confined to their homes.
I’m not even sure if this is actually a police Twitter handle since it’s not verified but assuming it is – please tell me under which law you have detained me in my home today? You can advise me not to leave my house but you can’t force me to stay in using security as an excuse. https://t.co/wfWwYPiTM4
— Omar Abdullah (@OmarAbdullah) February 14, 2021
Questions are being raised if the visiting diplomats would meet the opposition party members in Jammu and Kashmir. There are also reports saying that intelligence agencies have flagged a motivated misinformation campaign launched due to the visit of the foreign diplomats to Jammu and Kashmir.
Quoting sources, CNN News18 reported that “several tweets with posters spreading misinformation about the visit and ground situation in Kashmir have been tracked down to servers in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia”.
Earlier, in October 2019 a delegation of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) had visited Kashmir on a two-day visit. Thereafter, a 16-member delegation including the US Ambassador to India had visited J&K in January 2020. In February 2020, a 25 member-delegation of foreign envoys had toured the Valley.
The visits by foreign envoys were widely criticized, often being termed as ‘controlled visits’. Critics had said that the 2019 delegation members belonged to far-right parties in Europe, which are seen as anti-Muslim.
Recently, opposition leader Asaduddin Owaisi had raised questions in Parliament over the visits being arranged for the foreign delegation. He asked why the Centre was internationalizing the issue.
On the questions of statehood, Home Minister Amit Shah had said the Centre will grant full statehood to the Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) at an “appropriate time”.
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