November 2019
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Opposition parties, some BJP allies attack govt over Kashmir visit of EU MPs
New Delhi: Opposition parties on Wednesday stepped up their attack against the government over EU MPs' Kashmir trip with the Congress describing it as the "biggest diplomatic blunder" and others asking the Centre how these foreign lawmakers were allowed to visit the Valley while Indian leaders were denied permission.

It was not just opposition parties that trained their guns on the government over the visit of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to Kashmir, but BJP's ally Shiv Sena also took strong objection to it, asserting that it is "not an international issue".

In the first visit by a foreign delegation, a team of 23 MEPs travelled to Kashmir on Tuesday on a two-day visit to have a first-hand assessment of the situation after the state's special status was revoked in August by abrogating Article 370.

While the Congress asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come forward and answer the issues of "challenging India's sovereignty, national security and insult of India's Parliament" by allowing such a visit, CPI questioned why Indian leaders were not allowed to visit teh Valley.

CPI general secretary D Raja said he tried to visit Kashmir twice, but was detained and sent back.

Even one of the EU MP, Nicolaus Fest, who is part of the delegation, said the government should allow opposition leaders to visit the Valley.

Two BJP allies -- the Sena and the JD (U) -- also criticised the government over the visit.

Isn't the EU delegation's visit an "external invasion" of India's independence and sovereignty? an editorial in Sena mouthpiece 'Saamana' wondered, while questioning the rationale behind allowing the foreign team to visit Jammu and Kashmir.

When Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru was still criticised for taking the issue to the United Nations (UN), why were the EU parliamentarians allowed to visit Kashmir? the saffron alliance partner asked.

However, the Sena, which is an ally of the BJP at the Centre and in Maharashtra, praised the Modi government for having won the fight against "Pakistan-sponsored terrorism" by revoking Jammu and Kashmir's special status under Article 370.

Raising questions over the government's decision, JD (U) asked is the move not contrary to India's policy against internationalising the issue, and also wondered if it was an appropriate time as even Indian MPs were not allowed to visit the Valley.

"There are several contradictions in the visit. On the one hand India is against internationalising the issue, but on the other hand we have allowed a visit by these parliamentarians in their personal capacity. Is it an appropriate time? What is the criteria for selecting these members," JD(U) spokesperson Pavan Varma, a former diplomat, asked.

Raja also asked the government to explain the purpose of the visit, and reveal the affiliation of the members of the delegation.

Congress' chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala claimed that the BJP government continues to humiliate India on a global scale by allowing internationalisation of the Kashmir issue in violation of the time-tested policy that it is India's internal matter.

"The truth is that this is the biggest diplomatic blunder in India's history. The Modi government has deliberately internationalised the Kashmir issue, violating our time tested policy of Kashmir being an internal matter' of India," he told reporters.

"The Modi government has committed grave sacrilege by introducing a third party to assess the ground situation in Kashmir and that also through an unknown think tank. By doing so, the government has caused an affront to India's sovereign right over Jammu and Kashmir," he added.

Over the last three days, he said, India has witnessed "an immature, ill-advised and ill-conceived PR exercise" of the BJP government.

Congress general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra questioned how an "international business broker", who is alleged to have organised the private visit of European Union MPs to Kashmir, have access to the Prime Minister's office.

She said while the farmers and unemployed youth do not have the facility of meeting the Prime Minister to convey their grievances, "international business brokers" facilitate meetings with him.

Surjewala claimed the members of European Parliament were brought to India by a "nondescript" think-tank with "questionable" credentials to meet with Prime Minister Modi, visit Kashmir and hold a press briefing.

Surjewala said India's time tested policy over the last 72 years is that Kashmir is an internal issue.

"...We will accept no interference or third party mediation of any nature from any government or group of people or organisation or any individual. The Modi government has committed the gravest sin of reversing this policy over last three days," he said.

Congress leader and former finance minister P Chidambaram, who is lodged in Tihar jail in the INX Media case, said one does not know that the European MPs may be even invited to attend the next session of Parliament to speak in support of the government.

Of the 27 MPs who came to India, 23 went to Kashmir. Several of them belong to right and far right parties and are not part of he mainstream in their own countries.

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