Foreign delegation ends controversial tour of Indian-administered Kashmir | News | DW | 14.02.2020
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Foreign delegation ends controversial tour of Indian-administered Kashmir

The visit comes before an EU vote criticizing the lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir. Last year another visit by far-right members of the European parliament had triggered outrage.

Diplomats seen riding on a boat in Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Foreign envoys on a boat ride in Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Twenty-five diplomats, including the German ambassador and other envoys from the European Union, concluded a controversial visit to Indian-administered Kashmir on Thursday.

The visit was organized by the Indian foreign ministry to witness the "progressive normalization of the situation" in Indian-administered Kashmir.

The Muslim majority, which is a point of contention between India and Pakistan, came under increased international scrutiny when the Narendra Modi-led Hindu nationalist government decided to abrogate the region’s semi-autonomous status on August 5. 

The move was followed by massive protests, detentions and a communications blackout⁠—which raised concerns about human rights violations in the region. 

Indian media reported that some of the diplomats were "not very satisfied" while the others acknowledged "the access" that was given to them.

Read more: Kashmiris feel 'alienated' 6 months after India's 'annexation'

The two-day visit began with a shikara (wooden boat, pictured above) ride on the Dal Lake in Srinagar. The diplomats met a group of businesspeople, fruit growers and some journalists. They also met some political groups. The envoys were briefed by the Indian Army officials on the security situation in the region. 

However, this is not the first time a foreign delegation has visited Indian-administered Kashmir. In October last year, a trip by far-right political leaders from the EU stirred controversy. That visit came under heavy criticism: At the same time Indian opposition MPs were being denied access to the region, which was under a strict security lockdown. 

The EU parliament stated back then that the visit was not official and the MEPs were visiting in a personal capacity. Many members of the European parliament criticised the trip "partisan" and "one-sided" during a plenary session in Strasbourg in December. 

Last month, another visit of 15 foreign envoys came under heavy criticism for being "guided." At the time, diplomats from the European Union declined to take part, reportedly because they wanted to visit areas that were not part of the proposed schedule. According to some reports the diplomats also dropped out because they would not have been allowed to meet local politicians who are under detention.

The latest group of envoys included some of the diplomats who had declined the previous invitation, Reuters reported. This is also crucial because in January, the EU had deferred a vote criticizing the lockdown in Indian-administered Kashmir. The vote is expected next month. 

Read moreKashmir awaits restoration of internet with hope and skepticism

Some analysts suggest that these foreign visits are a break away from India’s long-standing view that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between India and Pakistan, as they have led to "internationalization"  of the Kashmir issue.

"India has lost the narrative that Kashmir is an issue for India and Pakistan to discuss. In the past there was no such active diplomacy. With these visits the internationalization of Kashmir is complete. The Ministry of External Affairs is now taking the initiative to invite these envoys to be witnesses of the situation," Khalid Shah, Associate Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation told DW.

The visits have also been criticized by opposition parties in India and analysts for being a "PR stunt" and for not having a productive bearing on the current situation in the region. 

"These visits are just a public relations exercise that came in too late. It doesn't change much. The situation on the ground has changed over the last six months and the emissaries are aware of that. They know it is a curated trip," Shah said.