A group of more than 20 foreign envoys and senior diplomats arrived in Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday for a two-day visit aimed at showcasing the government’s efforts to restore normalcy and boost development in the union territory.
The group includes European Union (EU) ambassador Ugo Astuto, and envoys of some 10 European countries, including French ambassador Emmanuel Lenain. Envoys and senior diplomats of Bangladesh, and countries in Africa, Central Asia and Central America are also part of the group.
Tight security arrangements were put in place for the visit, and the group headed to Magam in Badgam district, located on the outskirts of Srinagar, shortly after their arrival to meet with local residents, people familiar with developments said on condition of anonymity.
In the afternoon, the diplomats will meet different groups and leaders of political parties at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) on the banks of the Dal Lake.
The group is also scheduled to visit the Hazratbal shrine and meet a small group of local journalists in the evening. A cultural event has also been organised for the envoys in the evening.
Security was tight all across Srinagar, and especially around the SKICC, where the delegation of diplomats will meet different groups. The diplomats will also be briefed on the security situation by senior officials.
This is the third batch of diplomats to visit Jammu and Kashmir since the government scrapped the region’s special status in August 2019 and split it into two union territories in an effort to improve governance, boost development and tackle cross-border terrorism.
The first two groups visited Jammu and Kashmir in January and February 2020, and plans to send a batch of envoys from EU states last year were put on hold because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
As with the earlier groups, this batch of diplomats will interact with grassroots politicians, civil society organisations and businesspeople and visit key government projects and schemes.
Among the politicians who will meet the diplomats are some elected in the District Development Council (DDCs) elections held during November-December. The government is showcasing the holding of these elections as part of efforts to strengthen democratic institutions at the grassroots level.
The diplomats will travel to Jammu region on Thursday for more meetings and interactions.