The Ministry of Home Affairs on Wednesday told the Parliament that the delegation of 23 European Union MPs who visited Kashmir last month were on a “private visit” on the invitation of Delhi-based think tank International Institute for Non-aligned Studies. Samajwadi Party MP Sukhram Singh Yadav had asked the ministry a series of questions about the October 30 visit.

The group of politicians, mostly from far-right nationalist parties, were the first international team to visit the region since the government revoked the special status of the erstwhile state. Questions were then raised about who organised the visit. The International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, which reports at the time claimed had organised the trip, describes itself as a “thinktank for the Non-Aligned Movement”.

In his reply to the Rajya Sabha, Minister of State for Home Affairs G Kishan Reddy made no mention of the woman named Madi Sharma, who had written to the MEPs promising “a prestigious VIP meeting” with Prime Minister Narendra Modi as well as a trip to Kashmir.

“Such exchanges promote deeper people-to-people contact and ultimately it feeds into the larger relationship which any two countries would like to develop,” Reddy said in his response.

Likening it to a “familiarisation visit”, Reddy said the MEPs had expressed the desire to visit Kashmir to understand how terrorism is affecting India. “They got a sense of the threat of terrorism and how terrorism poses a threat to India especially in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir,” he added.

The minister reiterated the government’s position that Indian MPs were not allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir because of security concerns.

Opposition parties have repeatedly targeted the government for facilitating the European politicians’ trip to Kashmir. Many have wondered why the Members of European Parliament were given such easy access to the region when Opposition MPs were facing obstructions while trying to enter Srinagar.

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