NEW DELHI: A group of European parliamentarians that recently visited Kashmir was on a "private visit" to the country, the government informed Parliament on Wednesday.
"The government of Jammu and Kashmir has reported that a group of 27 Members of European Parliament (MEPs), who belonged to different political parties, including ruling and opposition parties, paid a private visit to India from October 28, 2019, to November 1, 2019, at the invitation of the International Institute for Nonaligned Studies, a Delhi-based think tank," Union Minister of State for Home G Kishan Reddy said in a written reply in Rajya Sabha.
He also informed the House that an Indian delegation of MPs was not allowed to visit Kashmir due to security concerns.
Opposition parties had attacked the government over the EU delegation's tour of Kashmir after Indian politicians and MPs were not allowed to travel to the Valley after the abrogation of Jammu and Kashmir's special status on August 5.
Reddy was responding to a set of questions that sought to know which institution organised and bore the expenses of this Kashmir tour and whether the institution that organised it was working as a coordinating institution for the central government.
In a separate reply, the minister said such visits or exchanges promote "deeper" people-to-people contact.
"Meetings were facilitated for the MEPs, as has been done previously on familiarisation visits for the visiting members of parliament of different countries."
"Further, the MEPs had expressed their desire that they would like to visit Kashmir to understand how terrorism is affecting India and how this has been a challenge for India," Reddy said.
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 said.
"Such exchanges promote deeper people-to-people contact and ultimately, it feeds into the larger relationship which any two countries would like to develop," the minister said.
To another question on whether the Union government has "distracted" from its policy of not allowing any external intervention on the Jammu-Kashmir issue, Reddy stated that India's consistent position has been that issues, if any, with Pakistan are discussed only bilaterally.
"There is no scope for any third party role or mediation," the minister said.
The team of MEPs was the first foreign delegation to travel to Kashmir after J-K's special status was revoked.
The delegation was on a two-day visit to get a first-hand assessment of the situation there after the August 5 decision.
Of the 27 MEPs who came to India, 23 went to Kashmir.