National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval hosted a lunch for a group of 27 European lawmakers who will visit Kashmir on Tuesday. The lunch was also attended three senior political leaders from Jammu and Kashmir. The leaders who were present at the lunch for Members of European Parliamentarian (MEPs) are Muzaffar Hussain Baig - a leader of People Democratic Party and former deputy chief minister of the state, Altaf Bukhari of PDP and Congress leader Usman Majeed.
The three leaders who attended the lunch were not on the detention list. While the Jammu and Kashmir administration has lifted detention orders weeks ago, around 250 political leaders from Kashmir are still under detention or house arrest.
Doval also briefed MEPs, who are from nine countries, on cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan, constitutional changes made in the status of Jammu and Kashmir with the revocation of Article 370 and the situation in the valley.
However, the initiative was strongly criticised by opposition parties with the Congress attacking the government, saying while it is allowing MEPs to visit J&K but preventing Indian leaders from doing so which was an insult to India's democracy and "ultimate disrespect" to its sovereignty.
Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is in detention, tweeted, "Hope they get a chance to speak to the people, local media, doctors and civil society members. The iron curtain between Kashmir & the world needs to be lifted and GOI must be held accountable for pushing J&K into turmoil" while questioning Centre's decision not to allow US senators.
Tweeting on behalf of Mehbooba Mufti, her family said, "Won't be surprised if GOIs indulging in normalcy acrobatics again & orchestrating 'normalcy' certificates."
Criticising the outreach, BJP MP Subramanian Swamy tweeted, "I am surprised that the MEA has arranged for European Union MPs, in their private capacity (not EU's official delegation), to visit Kashmir area of J&K. This is a perversion of our national policy. I urge the Government cancel this visit because it is immoral."
This is the first visit by a foreign delegation to the valley after the government abrogated Article 370 in August and comes barely weeks after the European Parliament plenary debate on the situation in Kashmir, during which High Representative/Vice-President expressed concern over the situation there.