SRINAGAR – US Ambassador to India Kenneth I Juster and envoys from 15 other countries arrived here on Thursday on a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir, the first visit by diplomats since August last year when the state’s special status was revoked and it was downsized to a union territory.
The Delhi-based envoys, who came here on a special chartered flight, landed at Srinagar’s technical airport and were taken directly to the army cantonment for a briefing.
Top officials from the newly carved out union territory of Jammu and Kashmir received the delegation, which will be going to Jammu later in the day and stay the night there.
The envoys, who are here as part of the government’s diplomatic outreach, will meet Lt Governor G C Murmu as well as civil society members and receive briefings on the security situation from various agencies, officials said.
Besides the US, the delegation includes diplomats from Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, and Nigeria. They return to Delhi on Friday.
Brazil’s envoy Andre Aranha Correa do Lago was also scheduled to visit Jammu and Kashmir. However, he backed out because of his preoccupation here, the officials said on Wednesday.
Envoys from the European Union (EU) countries are understood to have conveyed that they will visit the union territory on a different date and are also believed to have stressed on meeting the three former chief ministers — Farooq Abdullah, Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — who are under detention.
Officials said envoys of several countries had requested the government for a visit to Kashmir to get a first-hand account of the situation in the Valley following the August 5 decision to abrogate provisions of Article 370 and bifurcate it into two union territories, Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. This is the second visit of a foreign delegation to Jammu and Kashmir since August 5. Earlier, Delhi-based think tank International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank took 23 EU MPs on a two-day visit to assess the situation in the union territory.
The government had distanced itself from the visit with Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy informing Parliament that the European parliamentarians were on a “private visit”.__Kashmir Observer