Photo: AP

EU says India has taken steps to restore normalcy in Kashmir, calls for swift withdrawal of remaining curbs


NEW DELHI : The two day visit by the European Union (EU)’s Ambassador to India Ugo Astuto to Kashmir along with some others has confirmed that India has taken steps to restore normalcy, a spokeswoman for the EU said Friday but added that it was important that remaining curbs be removed quickly.

The comment comes after the 25 diplomats visited Kashmir on Wednesday and Thursday and ahead of a meeting of the envoys with India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval on Friday.

“The EU Ambassador to India along with some Ambassadors of EU Member States accepted the invitation extended by the Government of India to visit Srinagar and Jammu, on 12-13 February," the statement said.

“The programme of the visit organised by the Government of India included meetings with civil and military authorities, some political representatives, as well as selected representatives of civil society and the business community. 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," it said.

“While we recognise the serious security concerns, it is important that the remaining restrictions be lifted swiftly. The visit presented a welcome opportunity to see the situation on the ground and to interact with local interlocutors. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with India on the situation in the region," it added.

India had imposed restrictions on the internet, communications and movement of people besides detaining some politicians after the Indian parliament revoked Article 370 of the Indian constitution and integrated the region more closely with the rest of the country. New Delhi also divided the state of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories – ie Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh that were directly administered the central government. India says it introduced the curbs on the internet and communications as well as other restrictions in a bid to ensure that violence in the region where Pakistan has fomented unrest is kept to a minimum. It has begun easing the curbs though some like restrictions on broadband services remain in place. Key politicians too are under detention under the stringent provisions of the Public Safety Act. The restrictions being in place since August has attracted criticism from abroad with the EU parliament looking to discuss the matter next month. Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar is in Germany at present to attend the Munich Security Conference and is expected to travel to Brussels to pave the way for a visit by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 13 March for the India-EU summit.