SRINAGAR, Oct 30:
Capping a visit that attracted controversy and opposition ire, EU Parliamentarians visiting Jammu and Kashmir today termed the dilution of Article 370 an internal issue of India and said they stand by the country in its fight against terrorism.
The 23 members of European Parliament, who flew into a restive Kashmir valley pockmarked by shutdowns and clashes for a two-day visit on Tuesday, also condemned the killing of five labourers from West Bengal by terrorists in South Kashmir’s Kulgam district.
Before flying back to New Delhi, members of the delegation met selected journalists at Srinagar’s old airport.
“If we talk about Article 370, it is India’s internal matter. What concerns us is terrorism which is a global menace and we should stand with India in fighting it. There was an unfortunate incident of the killing of five innocent labourers by terrorists. We condemn it,” said Henri Malosse from France.
Malosse, a former president of the European Economic and Social Committee, said the team got a briefing from the army and police as well as young activists and exchanged “ideas of peace”.
Nicolaus Fest, from the right-wing Alternative for Germany, told journalists separately that the Government should address the “imbalance” of European parliamentarians being allowed to visit but India’s opposition MPs being refused permission.
The two-day trip, to assess the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, is significant for more than one reason.
It is the first high-level foreign visit to Kashmir after the August 5 decision of the Centre to revoke the State’s special status under Article 370 and downsize it into two union territories.
MEP from Poland Ryszard Czarnecki said the international media coverage on Kashmir seems biased.
“Once we go back to our countries we will inform them of what we saw,” the Prawo i Sprawiedliwosc party leader said.
Newton Dunn from the Liberal Democrat party in the UK described the visit as an “eye-opener”.
“We belong to a place Europe which is peaceful after years of fighting. And we want to see India becoming the most peaceful country in the world. And for that we need to stand by India in its fight against global terrorism,” he told reporters.
Thierry Mariani, a member of the Rassemblement National party in France, told the media he had been to India many times and the delegation was here not for political interference but to get a first-hand knowledge of the ground situation in Kashmir.
“Terrorists can destroy a country. I have been to Afghanistan and Syria and I have seen what terrorism has done. We stand with India in its fight against terrorism,” he said.
“By calling us fascists, our image has been tarnished. It’s better that one should know about us properly before tarnishing our image,” he added, referring to some media reports.
The EU team originally comprised 27 Parliamentarians but four did not travel to Kashmir and reportedly returned to their respective countries, officials said without divulging any reason. (PTI)