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Support to Annexation of Crimea, Nazi Slur: How Members of EU Panel Visiting Kashmir Have Made Headlines

Of the 27-member delegation, 22 lawmakers are said to be from the right-wing or far-right parties in UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

News18.com

Updated:October 29, 2019, 8:46 AM IST
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Support to Annexation of Crimea, Nazi Slur: How Members of EU Panel Visiting Kashmir Have Made Headlines
Members of European Parliament called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg on Monday. (Image tweeted by ANI)

New Delhi: A group of 27 European lawmakers will soon arrive in Kashmir on a two-day visit to meet J&K administration officials and locals, nearly 84 days after the abrogation of Article 370. This will be the first such visit by a foreign delegation ever since the state's special status was revoked by the Centre.

The delegation includes Italy's Fulvio Martusciello, UK's David Richard Bull, Italy's Gianna Gancia, France's Julie Lechanteux, Czech Republic's Tomas Zdechovsky, Slovakia's Peter Pollak and Germany's Nicolas Fest.

Zdechovsky had last month supported the Indian government's decision in his article in the European Parliament's monthly newspaper. He had said that the abrogation of Article 370 will help in rooting out several terrorist organisations operating in Kashmir, following which he claimed that he had "received many hate mails from Pakistan".

Interestingly, of the 27-member delegation, 22 lawmakers are said to be from the right-wing or far-right parties in UK, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Many of them are against immigration in Italy, have lent support to Brexit in the UK and against migration and belong to the anti-establishment Alternative für Deutschland in Germany.

While Italy's Martusciello, Gancia and another member have voiced their opinion against immigrants, and Guiseppe Ferrandino (Democratic Party), France's Lechanteux and four others are from Marine Le Pen's far-right party National Rally (French: Rassemblement national).

Besides them, there's a parliamentarian from Poland who was sacked from the EU Vice-President's post for making a slur with Nazi connotations and a French lawmaker who supported the Russian annexation of Crimea.

The foreign delegation's visit to the Valley 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.

Last week, a US Congressional panel questioned state department officials on the situation in Kashmir with some lawmakers expressing concern over the situation. As many as six US lawmakers — David Cicilline, Dina Titus, Andy Levin, Susan Wild, Chrissy Houlahan, and James McGovern — also wrote a letter to Indian Ambassador to the US Harsh Vardhan Shringla, claiming that the picture portrayed by India in the valley is different from the one being told to them by their constituents.

The visit has drawn sharp reaction from several leaders, including BJP's Subramanian Swamy who said that it is a "perversion of our national policy".

Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma said the party would raise issue in Parliament as, he added, the government decision violates the collective privileges of Indian MPs. Inviting EU lawmakers to JK is the "ultimate disrespect" to Indian Parliament's sovereignty, Sharma added.

His party colleague Jairam Ramesh tweeted,"When Indian political leaders have been prevented from meeting the people of J&K, what possessed the great chest-beating champion of nationalism to allow European politicians to visit J&K. This is an outright insult to India's own Parliament and our democracy."

Former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who is in detention, on Tuesday said that the trip coincides with board exams for over 60,000 students in Kashmir, and will "lend credence to 'all is normal' acrobatics".

Ahead of their two-day Kashmir visit, the delegation met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who categorically told them that an urgent action was needed against those supporting and sponsoring terrorism.

The visit will provide them with a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the regions of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, Modi said and hoped that it will also give them a "clear view" of the development and governance priorities in the region, according to an official release.

National Security Advisor Ajit 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.

After the briefing, Doval hosted a lunch for the European lawmakers. Those present also included some Kashmiri leaders, including former deputy chief minister of J&K Muzaffar Baig, former People's Democratic Party (PDP) leader Altaf Bukhari, some newly-elected Block Development Council (BDC) members in the state as also Sandeep Chattoo, co-owner of Real Kashmir Football Club.

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