Ministry defensive on MEPs’ tour
The external affairs ministry on Thursday walked the tight-rope while explaining its engagement with members of the European Parliament on a private visit to Kashmir, refusing to say which arm of the government coordinated the trip and sidestepping questions about “international business broker” Madi Sharma who had sent out the invites.
Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said the ministry’s mandate includes engaging with visitors who don’t come “through official channels”.
“In the case of the MEPs’ visit, it was brought to the attention of the government that this delegation is going to visit India,” Kumar said.
“The MEPs who visited India had expressed a keen desire to know about India — like a familiarisation visit. They belong to a spectrum of views from different countries of Europe…. Meetings were accordingly facilitated, as has been done on many previous occasions. Hope this puts to rest controversies that have arisen about the visit.”
Asked if more such visits would be facilitated to Kashmir, including of critics, he replied: “We will definitely look at such requests…. The deciding factor will depend upon the intent, content and also the ground situation.”
To repeated questions whether the ministry was in the loop, he said: “When we realised a certain group is in town and it could serve our foreign policy objective… it is our job to facilitate engagements.”
Kumar replied in the negative when asked if Indian diplomacy was ceding space to private entities. He sidestepped a query about Sharma’s invitations to the MEPs, saying: “I would not like to get into details.”
Sharma had, in her email invitations to the MEPs, said: “He (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) would like to meet influential decision makers from the European Union. I am therefore inquiring if you would be interested to visit Delhi, India, to meet with the Prime Minister.”