Clarifying on the visit of the European Union parliamentary delegation to Kashmir which has stirred controversy, the Ministry of External Affairs said on Thursday that it is part of the government’s mandate to “engage with people of a wide range of social spectrum” and the MEPs had expressed a “very keen desire to know about India and how terrorism is affecting India”.
MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, answering questions on the visit of the 23 MEPs to India, said “It was brought to our attention that the delegation is going to visit India. MEPs are directly elected and represent their constituencies directly.”
He said the MEPs who visited India and wanted to visit, had “expressed a keen desire to know more about India. They belonged to a spectrum of different countries, and different political parties, they come from opposition parties. Their meetings were accordingly facilitated, as has been done on many previous occasions.”
He said it is part of the foreign policy objective of the government to promote people to people contacts.
He said many visitors come and meet the Prime Minister, like former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, met him last week.
“Visitors who come do not necessarily have to come through official channels. And we have engaged and facilitated them even on occasions where the visit has not been through official channels,” he said on reports that the group’s visit was in a personal capacity.
“It is part of the mandate to engage with people from a range of social spectrum in other countries; and the objective is very clear — that this is being done to promote our foreign policy objectives,” Kumar added.
“We feel that such exchanges promote deeper people-to-people contact, and ultimately feeds into the larger relationship that any two countries would like to develop.”
He said that India has earlier engaged with members of civil society, MPs, NGOs, businesses, media and others.
“The mode is different, sometimes they are facilitated by us, sometimes they are organised on their own, and many times dignitaries come here on the invitation of somebody else.”
“The important point to be considered in this regard, is whether sharing our perspectives – does it serve our national interest,” he said.
The visit of the MEPs to Kashmir and their meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stirred controversy after it was reported that it was facilitated by an Indian-origin woman named Madi Sharma, who issued the invite as part of her organisation called WESTT – Women’s Economic & Social Think Tank.