SRINAGAR, Feb 17: A group of envoys, including those from several Europe Union countries and a few OIC member states, began a two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday to take a first-hand account of the situation in newly-carved Union Territory, especially after the recently-concluded local body elections.

The envoys, which has representation from four Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC) – Malaysia, Bangladesh, Senegal and Tajikistan – were taken to Magam in central Kashmir amid heightened security arrangements in the city and elsewhere in the valley, officials said here.

Other envoys included in this delegation were from Brazil, Italy, Finland, Cuba, Chile, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Sweden, Kyrgyzstan, Ireland, Ghana, Estonia, Bolivia, Malawi, Eritrea and Ivory Coast.

This is the third delegation that has arrived in Jammu and Kashmir since the government abrogated the erstwhile State’s special status on August 5, 2019 and bifurcated it into two Union Territories by carving out Ladakh.

In Magam, the envoys went to a college and were received in a traditional way and after the customary rituals by the administration, they interacted with the locals. It was a free-flowing exchange of ideas by the delegation with the locals, the officials said.

Later, the delegation was taken to a hotel located along the famous Dal lake where they interacted with Mayor of Srinagar, chairpersons of just-formed District Development Councils, Block Development Councils and Municipal Councils from all parties.

The delegation was apprised of the government’s initiative of ensuring democracy at grass-root level and strengthening of panchayats in the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir by giving them financial powers.

A significant thing about the delegation was the inclusion of OIC member states so that they could easily counter the propaganda of Pakistan which has been creating a false narrative about the situation in the Union Territory, the officials said.

The report of the OIC Secretary General on its activities submitted to the 47th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers referred to the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and said, “The decision of the Indian government on 5 August 2019 towards changing the demographic and geographic composition of the territory, and the continuous blockade and restrictions together with human rights abuses, had awakened renewed efforts of the international community towards a resolution of the conflict.”

However, India, without naming Pakistan, had said that it was “regrettable that OIC continues to allow itself to be used by a certain country, which has an abominable record on religious tolerance, radicalism and persecution of minorities, to indulge in anti-India propaganda.”

It may be mentioned here that curbs on Internet were removed earlier this month and the speed was enhanced from existing 2G to 4G.

During their stay in the valley, the delegation members will visit the revered Hazratbal shrine on the banks of Dal Lake besides meeting artisans.

The delegation is scheduled to visit Jammu on Thursday where they are likely to meet the officials of the Union Territory and call on Lt Governor Manoj Sinha. – PTI