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Concerned over situation in Kashmir, important to restore normalcy: EU envoy

Ambassador Ugo Astuto also said that the visit to Kashmir by the Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) was not 'an expression of EU's policy decision'.

Published: 10th December 2019 03:39 PM  |   Last Updated: 10th December 2019 06:48 PM   |  A+A-

Security personnel stand guard at a closed market during a strike called by Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani on the occasion of 'World Human Rights Day' in Srinagar Tuesday Dec. 10 2019. (Photo | PTI)

Security personnel stand guard at a closed market during a strike called by Hurriyat Conference Chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani on the occasion of 'World Human Rights Day' in Srinagar Tuesday Dec. 10 2019. (Photo | PTI)

By PTI

NEW DELHI: The European Union on Tuesday said it was concerned over restrictions on "fundamental freedom" of people in Kashmir and called for steps like restoration of communication network and essential services to bring back normalcy in the Valley.

European Union's Ambassador to India Ugo Astuto also said that Pakistan must take action against militants and terror groups and that it should comply with steps recommended by anti-terror watchdog Financial Action Task Force (FATF) in containing terrorism in the country.

Astuto, at a media briefing, said the European Union favours resolution of all issues between India and Pakistan through dialogue.

On Kashmir, he said the European Union understands India's security concerns, but insisted that steps should be taken to restore normalcy in the Valley, adding the bloc's views on the matter remained unchanged since August.

In August, India announced withdrawing special status of Jammu and Kashmir and bifurcating the state into two union territories.

Pakistan reacted angrily to the move and downgraded its diplomatic ties with India, besides trying to rally international support against New Delhi over the decision.

"We did convey our concerns about the situation on the ground, especially restrictions on fundamental freedom.

It is crucial that freedom of movement and means of communication are restored as well as the essential services," Astuto said.

"We want the government to take steps to restore normalcy in the region. We have understanding about India's security concerns. Our position has been consistent and unchanged," he said.

Following the decision to reorganise Jammu and Kashmir, internet and mobile phone networks and landline networks were cut off while key political leaders put under house arrest.

Large parts of the Valley are still reeling under the restrictions.

Astuto said there have been contacts between the EU and India on the Kashmir issue.

"We held talks with the External Affairs Minister on couple of occasions."

On a visit of a group of European parliamentarians to Kashmir in October, the envoy said it was not an official trip.

"The MEPs (Member of European Parliament) were in India on an individual capacity. It was not an official visit. The visit was not an expression of the policy decision by the EU," he said.

In the first visit by a foreign delegation, a team of 23 MEPs travelled to Kashmir on Tuesday on a two-day trip to have a first-hand assessment of the situation after the state's special status was revoked.

Several of the 23 MPs belonged to right and far-right parties and are not part of the mainstream in their own countries.

Opposition parties severely criticised the government for the move with the Congress describing it as the "biggest diplomatic blunder" and others asking the Centre how these foreign lawmakers were allowed to visit the Valley while Indian leaders were denied permission.

On its part, the government said the trip was considered to be in India's larger national interest as it helped getting international attention on Pakistan's support to cross-border terrorism.

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