30 European MPs visit Indian Kashmir

Thirty European lawmakers, mostly from the far right and nationalists, including five from the French National Rally, are visiting India this week for an unofficial visit to Indian Kashmir.

India-controlled Kashmir is predominantly Muslim and is in dispute with Pakistan. The Indian authorities have been facing a separatist insurgency for a long time and witnessed a security explosion, especially since the Hindu national government abolished the constitutional autonomy of this region.

The Indian authorities are making the visit as the first international delegation to Kashmir since its decision last summer, but the European Union stressed that the deputies make the visit spontaneously and not officially.

"The parliamentary delegation is not on an official visit to India and is here at the invitation of an NGO. We will not organize any of their meetings or the stages of their visit to India," an EU official in India said.

The group of MPs, made up mainly of members of the Law and Justice Party (Poland), the National Rally (France) and the Brexit (UK), met Monday with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his security adviser Ajit Duval.

They will visit Kashmir on Tuesday for a day and a half, in a visit sponsored by local authorities, to "better understand the cultural and religious diversity of the region," a government statement said.

The Indian authorities, fearing a popular uprising in response to the abolition and partition of Jammu and Kashmir, have since August imposed severe restrictions in the Srinagar valley.

Traffic restrictions were eased and some telephone lines returned to work, but Kashmiris have been without Internet access for nearly three months.

"We will be briefed on the situation in Kashmir or what they will kindly offer us," said French MP Thierry Mariani.

"What interests me in international relations is the interest of France, which is that there is no terrorist enclave again in the Strip."

The former minister under Nicolas Sarkozy said in a tweet that he had come to India with deputies from his party, Virginie Gouron, François Jamie, Maxit Berbakas and Julie Lushanti.

The latter has accused critics of New Delhi's Kashmir policy of being based on a "deceptive presentation of facts" and blamed "disturbing rise of Islamic separatism" - words reprinted by India's ambassador to France.


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