EU Parliament members land in Srinagar in the middle of a shutdown and ‘exams’
The delegations of MEPs (Members of European Parliament) arrived in Srinagar on Tuesday amidst a shutdown and 60,000 students appearing in a Board examination
Nathan Gill, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP), is one of the MEPs visiting Kashmir. A climate change denier, barely a year ago he was criticising British aid to India, suggesting that India did not deserve it. The cartoon posted above is what he had tweeted approvingly at the time and this is what he had said:
- "We are closing Libraries and yet at the same time, we are giving money to China to buy trees. We are giving 240 million quids to India, and they got a Formula 1 GP and a space program."
- Foreign aid has become a fat cat industry. It goes to countries which don’t need it. It is often spent on senseless projects
The timing of the visit of the MEPs to Kashmir was timed by the Government to show normalcy in the Valley. But reports filtering in from Srinagar suggest a shutdown in Srinagar and clashes between people and security personnel.
Tweeted former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s daughter: No coincidence that EU MPs trip tomorrow coincides with board exams for over 60,000 students in Kashmir. They have no choice but to appear for the exam tomorrow just to lend credence to ‘all is normal’ acrobatics.
On Tuesday a Delhi based journalist tweeted, “I asked a senior MHA official on Kashmir darshan of EU delegation, the official's response: ask the army!”
The visit has been further mired by controversy as it became known that the invitation to visit Kashmir was withdrawn from the British Liberal Democrat Chris Davies after he insisted on an assurance that he would get unrestricted access to speak to people in Kashmir. He wanted free access to the public and journalists without being escorted everywhere by security. But instead of the assurance, his invitation was withdrawn.
What is the Government of India trying to hide, Davies asked in a statement on Tuesday. The invitation was extended to him on October 7 and withdrawn three days later.
While the Government of India and the Ministry of External Affairs have distanced themselves from the visit, suggesting that it was a private visit, the red carpet rolled out for the visiting MEPs and the briefing by the National Security Adviser and the Prime Minister suggest otherwise.
Former diplomat and Ambassador K.C. Singh tweeted on Tuesday, “regretted TV debate on EU delegation visit to J&K. If not an official visit, who are these worthies? What are their political affiliations & who’s funding it? Why can’t Indian political leaders be taken instead as their satisfaction would be globally accepted?
However, BJP MP and columnist Swapan Dasgupta had a different take. The criticism of the visit, he felt, was diversionary and tweeted, “ Harping on the political affiliations of MEPs visiting Kashmir is a diversion. India must cultivate its friends in Europe, regardless of their stand on matters that are internal to the EU. What matters is that these guys see no virtues in terror politics wrapped in a green flag.”
The visit has already attracted international attention. US-based Indian-Academic academic Vipin Narang said, “ These are folks with some really unsavoury politics that the Government of India is taking to Kashmir. MPs from India's own opposition parties are barred from visiting, but these folks get a red carpet tour. Bizarre. One has to wonder why (besides sharing of "best practices").
Political Scientist Paul Staniland also exclaimed, “ The transnational right: "a majority of MEPs belonged to far-right, anti-immigration parties in the European Union, including Italy’s Forza Italia, France’s Rassemblement National, Poland’s Justice and Law party, Germany’s Alternative Fur Deutschland (AFD)"