Managing perceptions: On envoys visit to J&K-THE HINDU14-02-2020


The Centre’s decision to take another group of envoys on a guided tour of Jammu and Kashmir , and the stated hope of the Ministry of External Affairs that these tours will become a regular feature, point to a belief that these visits have been productive. Clearly, the government, which has been under considerable international pressure to lift restrictions in the former State, has managed to arrange these three visits without any incident. The delegations have been taken to meet with local groups, and shown a glimpse of ‘normalcy’ in the Kashmir Valley, with shops open, people out on the streets, and boating on the Dal Lake. After these tours, no envoy has come forward with any negative account, which indicates that at least for the moment, the government’s narrative has prevailed.

Jaishankar travels to Brussels to prepare for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s trip next month for the EU-India summit. However, the government must recognise that these gains in the immediate present are superficial in the absence of a change in the situation in Kashmir. It would not have escaped anyone’s attention that these tours are tightly controlled, and the people meeting the foreign guests in the confines of the Raj Bhavan are handpicked by the government. In fact, European delegates who accepted New Delhi’s invitation on this trip had earlier opted out in order to request freer access and meetings with leaders in detention, but the government refused to relent.

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