A five-member European Union (E.U.) delegation, on a two-day visit to assess the situation in India's northern-most state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), said J&K was an integral and important part of India--the first time it came so close to the Indian position, though its various members was visiting Kashmir for several years.
"Kashmir is an integral and important part of India. That is the opinion of the European Union. That is our opinion and that is the starting point of the discussion," Swedish Ambassador to India Lors Olof Lindgren, the head of the delegation, said in Srinagar, the capital of J&K.
He, however, added the E.U. sought a peaceful resolution of the issue through negotiations between India and Pakistan and those concerned within Kashmir.
Lindgren made it clear that the delegation did not come to solve the Kashmir issue but to understand the situation and interact with people and know about their views.
"We also want to see how separatists look at the situation," he said.
The Swedish envoy also said they were concerned about human rights violation in Kashmir, though the delegation appreciated the overall improvement in the situation in the valley.
"Well, there are a lot of human rights issues that we are looking into. I cannot go into the details of those but those are of concern to the European Union, and we discussed them with the Indian government, and we have met the Human Rights Commissioner in the state. So we will follow these things with interest like we follow the situation in all parts of India," added Lindgren.
Members of the delegation met with Mohammed Yasin Malik, the chairman of the separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the chairman of the separatist All Parties Hurriyat (freedom) conference.
Malik said he told the E.U. delegation that people in Kashmir would respond to the call of the international community and it was now their responsibility to help to resolve the issue.
Separatist groups have long demanded the withdrawal of Indian troops and scrapping of anti-terrorism laws, including the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) that gives sweeping powers to security forces in Kashmir, where about 500,000 troops are stationed.
Others in the E.U. team include Belgian Ambassador Jean M. Deboutte, Spanish Ambassador Ion de la Riva, Second Secretary (Political Affairs) in the Swedish Embassy Oscar Schlyter and E.U. Ambassador Danielle Smadja.
by RTT Staff Writer
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