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Srinagar, February 12, 2020
More than 20 foreign envoys began their two-day Jammu and Kashmir visit on Wednesday with a Shikara ride in the iconic Dal lake in Srinagar.
Members of the delegation include diplomats from Germany, France, Canada, Afghanistan, Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary.
The envoys will travel to Jammu on Thursday after interacting representatives of civil society in Kashmir.
The envoys are likely to be briefed by senior officers in Srinagar about security situation in Kashmir.
Speaking to reporters after a shikara ride in Dal lake, Afghan envoy Tahir Qadiri said, "We saw that schools and shops were open on our way from the airport to city."
"It was the part of the world that I always wanted to see," Qadiri said. Another envoy from Mexico said Kashmir is a beautiful place. "We are here as tourists," he said.
A third envoy said they have come to Jammu and Kashmir to see the situation here.
Amid tight security, the delegation checked into a five-star hotel in Srinagar on the banks of the Dal lake.
This is the second group of foreign diplomats visiting Jammu and Kashmir after the revocation of Article 370. On January 9, a delegation of 17 foreign envoys including US ambassador Kenneth Juster visited the union territory. Before that, a team of European parliamentarians had visited Srinagar.
The delegation will also meet business representatives and others during its stay in Srinagar and Jammu. A group of journalists will also be reportedly meeting them.
On Thursday, the envoys will head to Jammu where they will meet with Lt. Governor G.C. Murmu and other civil society groups.
The visit also comes days after the stringent Public Safety Act (PSA) was slapped on former Jammu and Kashmir chief ministers Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti.
BJP leader Khalid Jahangir and Congress state general secretary Usman Majeed were among a group of politicians who met the delegation today.
After the meeting, Jahangir told IANS that he raised the issue of political detentions in Kashmir. He said he told the delegation members that the majority of the people in Kashmir hate the mainstream leaders.
He said he told them that the three former Chief Ministers who have been detained must be released.
"The former Chief Ministers must be released if there are no charges against them and they are not involved in any unlawful activity," he said.
"A peaceful political process is needed in Kashmir."
He said he raised the issue of the day-to-day problems faced by the people in Kashmir and said that it is the responsibility of the Central government to mitigate the sufferings of the people.
Majeed told IANS that he was not representing his party but met the foreign envoys in his individual capacity.
"I raised the issues of business losses, Internet blockade, detention of politicians, development activities in Kashmir," Majeed said.
He said he told the delegation members that there is a disconnect between the administration and the people and elections in J&K should be held as soon as possible.
"I told them the government of India should compensate for the loss of Article 35A and that the fight for restoration of statehood will continue."
Meanwhile, four people were detained by the Jammu and Kashmir police on Wednesday for protesting against the visit of foreign envoys near the hotel they are staying in.
They were carrying placards which read 'We Kashmir Youth Power Team'.
Speaking to reporters before they were taken away by the police, they said the visit of foreign envoys is meaningless and efforts must be made to create employment opportunities in Kashmir.
The government has stated that the visit was organised as a part of outreach efforts.