Joining the list of European nations that have expressed apprehension about the communications blackout in Jammu and Kashmir, Sweden has urged the Modi Government to end restrictions in volatile region.
India has ignored criticism of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, asserting revoking special status of the volatile region is purely ‘internal matter’. Except for a controversial visit by a group of far-right members of the European Parliament, diplomats have so far not been allowed to travel to Kashmir.
Sweden’s Foreign Minister Ann Linde, who will be part of a delegation accompanying King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia on a state visit to India told the Swedish parliament that the country did not want the situation to escalate in Kashmir and that any long-term political solution must involve Kashmiris.
Answering a question in the parliament, Linde described the situation in Kashmir as “worrying” and said Sweden and the European Union (EU) supported a “bilateral political solution through contacts between India and Pakistan”.
“We emphasise the importance of respect for human rights, that an escalation of the situation in Kashmir is avoided and that a long-term political solution to the situation must involve Kashmir’s inhabitants. Dialogue between India and Pakistan is crucial,” she said.
Swedish Ambassador in New Delhi Klas Molin, in a recent interview, also said that his country and the EU have a “principled” view on Kashmir. “We know it’s longstanding, it goes back decades and I think we also have said consistently that because it is historically bilateral in nature, it can only be solved reasonably through negotiations and discussions between the two concerned parties, India and Pakistan.”
Molin also said diplomats should be allowed to visit Kashmir to assess the situation for themselves. “I think it’s in the nature of the beast that is the curious diplomat to travel in the country of assignment. So I would personally love to visit Kashmir for all kinds of reasons and engage as we do in other parts of India with the population, with politicians and civil society,” he said.
Meanwhile, Sweden is conducting an ambitious “government-to-government” multibillion-dollar deal to offer Saab’s Gripen-NG fighter to India which New Delhi had almost sidelines for now.
Saab was part of a Swedish government-funded high-powered trade group consisting many of Sweden’s leading industrial corporations, including Ericsson, Volvo, ABB, Scania and BAE Systems Hägglunds AB.
Sweden’s King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia are expected to visit India accompanied by a delegation that includes foreign minister Ann Linde and business and innovation minister Ibrahim Baylan to pitch in trade and defence ties.
Saab is among the defence firms who responded to the Indian Air Force’s 2018 initial tender for 114 multi-role combat jets to be manufactured in India along with a partnership between a domestic company and a foreign manufacturer. The other contenders were France’s Rafale, F/A-18 and F-21 of the US, MiG-35 and Sukhoi-35 of Russia, and Eurofighter Typhoon.