Envoys to J&K urge govt to lift Internet restrictions in Kashmir

The European Union (EU) Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy told India Today TV that the EU would want to see the swift lifting of restrictions on communications in the Union Territory.

Foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir on Friday urged the government to ‘swiftly’ lift the restrictions on communication still imposed in the Valley although “positive steps towards restoration of normalcy were visible”.

Virginie Battu-Henriksson, EU Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, told India Today TV that the European Union (EU) would want to see the swift lifting of restrictions on communications in the Union Territory.

“The visit confirmed that the Government of India has taken positive steps to restore normalcy. Some restrictions remain, notably on internet access and mobile services, and some political leaders are still in detention. While we recognise the serious security concerns, it is important that the remaining restrictions be lifted swiftly”, Virginie Battu-Henriksson said.

EU Ambassador to India, Ugo Astuto, was also a part of the delegation, along with some Ambassadors of the EU Member States who visited Srinagar and Jammu, on February 12-13.

The two-day trip of 25 foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir culminated with the delegation meeting National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval on Friday.

The NSA hosted the 25 envoys over a cocktail reception which was attended by Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, Rajya Sabha MP MJ Akbar.

While the issue of internet restrictions and political detentions came up during the visit, most of the envoys were of the view that there were efforts being made by the government to “normalise” the situation.

Speaking exclusively to India Today TV, Germany’s Ambassador to India, Walter J. Lindner said: “Positive steps towards restoration of normalcy were visible but there are still some restrictions which remain. Most of the people we spoke to did raise the issue to full access to the Internet. it was on the mind of almost everyone we talked to. It’s necessary for economic development. If I say what was in the mind of the people, I’d say Internet access, peace and economic possibilities.”

Afghanistan Envoy Tahir Qadri, after meeting NSA Ajit Doval, said: “I had good experience on my visit to Jammu and Kashmir. It’s always very good to have first account of things.”

One of the envoys said that some of the European envoys did seek answers to the imposition of Section 144 in the Valley during their interaction with officials in Jammu.

The officials explained that it no longer is imposed in Kashmir, and in August last year, it was imposed, but only in certain sensitive pockets.

“It was good to go there, as one can see and get a little glimpse of what the situation is like. This is, of course, a limited impression because of security reasons and you can’t meet everyone. But despite the limitations, we got the opportunity to talk to those whom we met without any restrictions and we indeed could ask all our questions, even critical questions and got answers”, said Lindner.

While there were some from the civil society who spoke about Article 370, most others want to move on and see what the Center has to offer to Jammu and Kashmir, observed another envoy.

Source: India Today


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