‘Don’t want Kashmir to become another Afghanistan’

Srinagar, Oct 30 (IANS) On a visit to Kashmir, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) on Wednesday acknowledged that the problems in the region were linked to terrorism and said it should not “become Syria or another Afghanistan” which are afflicted by anarchy and widespread violence.
Interacting with mediapersons here at the end of their two-day unofficial visit to Kashmir, the EU MPs expressed strong backing for the government’s efforts to end terrorism and restore peace in the state.
The delegation members said they were not here to interfere in Indian politics but to find out how they could help in addressing problems of Kashmir.
Hours ahead of the official announcement of the bifurcation of the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two Union Territories of Ladakh and J&K, members of the European Union (EU) said they support India in its war against terrorism as it is the largest democracy in the world.
Underlining that they did not want Kashmir to become Syria or another Afghanistan, a delegation member said, “We support India in finding the best solution.”
The EU members answering a question on the mounting tension between India and Pakistan, said, “They should talk instead of fighting”.
Henri Maloose of France expressed shock saying that the delegates were being labeled as “Islamophobics”, “fascists” and “racists”. He thanked the Indian government for allowing them to visit Kashmir, and see things for themselves on the ground.
The delegates also expressed grief and shock over the killings of five innocent persons by terrorists in Kulgam on Tuesday.
During their two-day long stay in Kashmir, the EU members of around 24 countries got a first-hand feel of the ground situation after the abrogation of J&K’s special status.
This was the first visit of any foreign parliamentarian/dignitary to Kashmir since August 5 when the special status of the state was abrogated.
EU members of the UK, Brussels, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Greece, Cyprus, Malta and others visited the Kashmir Valley and interacted with the army, civil administration, members of civil society, traders, lawyers, artisans, tour and travel operators and some politicians.
The delegations visited the Badami Bagh cantonment headquarters of Indian Army’s 15 Corps immediately after their arrival in Srinagar on Tuesday. Lt General K.J.S. Dhillon, GOC of 15 Corps gave a two-hour long briefing to the delegation.
Details of the proxy war waged by Pakistan against India through its sponsored terror outfits were shared with the EU members.
Arms and ammunition bearing Pakistani, Chinese and even American markings recovered from the militants were displayed before the delegates who took a keen interest asking questions and seeking clarifications on the security forces operations against the militants.
The Army gave details of its efforts to ensure that civilian life and property are protected during anti-militancy operations in which militants were taking civilians as hostages during encounter with the security forces.
EU members had lunch at the Corps headquarters on Tuesday after which they left for the Hotel Lalit Palace on the banks of the Dal Lake.
Members of civil society, traders, lawyers, artisans and people connected with the tourism industry called on the delegates during their stay in the hotel.
Speaking to some media persons after they called on the delegations, members of various organizations said that they had conveyed their concerns over the continuing violence in the state that has dealt a death blow to the economy and the educational system of Kashmir.
People connected with the tourism industry told the delegates that because of the prevailing uncertainty and violence in Kashmir they are finding it difficult to keep the wolf away from the door.
Traders, industrialists and members of the civil society also informed the delegates about the hardships faced by them because of the information clampdown which has resulted in nearly three month long non-availability of Internet facility.
Sources said that the authorities have assured the delegations that restrictions on six landline connections and mobile phones have already been lifted and the Internet facilities would soon be restored as the ground situations continues to improve.
Officials informed the delegates that there are no curfew restrictions on civilian movement anywhere in the state and that the presence of security forces is maintained to prevent anti-national and anti-social elements from creating a law and order situation.
With regards to the local politicians who continue to remain under detention since August 5 when Article 370 was abrogated, the EU members were informed that some of these detained politicians have already been set free and those still under detention would be released in a phased manner beginning November 1 this year.
Although there were dozens of incidents of stone pelting in Srinagar city on the arrival of the EU delegations, authorities have successfully conducted the class 10 board exams which started in the valley on Wednesday.
Officials of the school board of education said nearly 99 per cent of 65,000 students appeared in the examination.
Parents somehow managed to carry their children to the various examination centres despite the absence of public transport while miscreants were pelting stones to prevent children from taking their exams.
The delegates went on a ‘Shikara ‘ (boat) ride on the Dal lake during which they spoke to some boat owners about the difficulties being faced by them.
“The visit of EU members has belied Pakistani propaganda that nobody can move out in Kashmir and that life has been halted here after the abrogation of state’s special status”, said a senior official.

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