ISLAMABAD: The Foreign Office on Saturday said that India was attempting to mislead the world over the situation in occupied Kashmir through ‘guided tours’.
FO Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri, while responding to media queries about the visit of Delhi-based foreign diplomats to occupied Kashmir, said: “Such guided tours to the occupied territory and meetings with hand-picked people are designed to create a smokescreen to divert attention from the egregious human rights violations in IIOJK and India’s illegal measures to change the demographic structure of the occupied territory.”
The Indian government took 24 foreign diplomats on a two-day visit to occupied Jammu and Kashmir to claim that the situation in the region is normal after its annexation in Aug 2019.
Indian government took 24 foreign diplomats on a visit to occupied valley
The visit to occupied Jammu and Kashmir, which was the third by a group of diplomats, followed the holding of District Development Council (DDC) elections last year and restoration of high-speed internet earlier this month.
The Indian government, through the visit, attempted to showcase so-called development in the area and political participation by the local people.
The FO spokesman said that India’s ‘development’ narrative was meant to obfuscate machinations to further disempower and disenfranchise the Kashmiri people who were being reduced to a minority in their own land through the ongoing demographic restructuring in violation of relevant UNSC resolutions and the international law, including the 4th Geneva Convention.
“India cannot even feign ‘normalcy’ with continuing military siege and restrictions on the fundamental freedoms of Kashmiri people. The people’s rights to assembly, free movement, freedom of expression and even to safety of life and property are routinely violated in the IIOJK with impunity,” Mr Chaudhri said.
“The talk of ‘inclusive development’ while hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris are being deprived of basic rights and economic opportunities, is farcical,” he said.
The spokesman recalled a statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority issues and Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion and belief, who expressed concerns about the rights of Kashmiri Muslims being threatened after the annexation of the region by India.
The statement, which coincided with the conclusion of the visit of diplomats to Kashmir, observed: “The loss of autonomy and the imposition of direct rule by the government in New Delhi suggests the people of Jammu and Kashmir no longer have their own government and have lost power to legislate or amend laws in the region to ensure the protection of their rights as minorities.”
About India’s claim of elections in Kashmir, the spokesman said that no sham electoral exercise in occupied Kashmir could substitute the UN Security Council-mandated plebiscite under the UN auspices.
Published in Dawn, February 21st, 2021