Envoys from 15 countries visit troubled Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR, INDIA (AP) — Envoys from 15 countries including the United States (US) arrived in Indian-controlled Kashmir yesterday, the first visit by New Delhi-based diplomats since the government stripped the region of its semi-autonomous status and imposed a harsh crackdown five months ago.

The diplomats were driven by Indian authorities in a motorcade amid tight security from the airport to the military headquarters in Srinagar, where they were briefed on the security situation, an army officer said. He spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorised to speak to reporters.

They also held discussions with some government officials at a luxury hotel and were expected to meet civil society members and some pro-India Kashmiri politicians.

India’s Hindu nationalist-led government ended Kashmir’s semi-autonomous status in August.

The move was accompanied by a harsh crackdown, with New Delhi sending tens of thousands of additional troops to the already heavily militarised region, imposing a sweeping curfew, arresting thousands and cutting virtually all communications.

Security vehicles of Indian police guard a convoy of New Delhi-based diplomats passing through Srinagar. PHOTO: AP

Authorities have since eased several restrictions, lifting roadblocks and restoring landlines and cellphone services. The Internet service is yet to be restored in the Kashmir valley.

They have encouraged students to return to school and businesses to reopen, but top political leaders from the region continue to be under arrest or detention.

Outside access to the region remains limited, with no foreign journalists allowed to visit since the clampdown began.

In October, a group of European Parliament members had visited the region, which is claimed by both India and Pakistan in its entirety.

Diplomats representing the US, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Norway, the Maldives, South Korea, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Argentina, the Philippines, Fiji, Uzbekistan, Peru and Togo comprised the delegation visiting yesterday.