New Delhi: As 23 European Union lawmakers toured Jammu and Kashmir (J & K) on Wednesday, the first international group to do so since the Narendra Modi-government scrapped the state’s special status — the organiser of the event Madi Sharma alias Madhu Sharma has come under the scanner.
The visit was sponsored by International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies, a think-tank based in New Delhi. The office of the think-tank was found locked on Wednesday.
Aided by the non-profit Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT), the visit has now been described as unofficial. So much so that several European embassies in New Delhi were unaware of the visit.
Meanwhile, the EU Parliamentarians travelled in bullet-proof vehicles with heavy security, stayed in a five-star hotel and interacted with military officials.
“Their visit to Jammu and Kashmir should give the delegation a better understanding of the cultural and religious diversity of the region of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, apart from giving them a clear view of the development and government priorities of the region,” a statement by Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) read.
Prior to that, National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval gave the EU MPs an overview of the situation in J & K.
Emails inviting the delegates went from Madi Sharma, who describes herself on social media as a “Social Capitalist, International Business Broker and Education Entrepreneur.”
“I am organising a prestigious VIP meeting with the Prime Minister of India, His Excellency Narendra Modi and it is my privilege to offer this invitation to you. As you will be aware Prime Minister Modi had a landslide victory in the recent elections in India and is planning to continue on his path of growth and development for India the country and its people. In that respect, he would like to meet influential decision makers from the European Union,” Sharma wrote in an email to the MPs on October seven.
According to the email, the meeting with PM Modi was fixed for October 28, the visit to Kashmir on 29 and a press conference the next day.
“The visit will be of a small group of cross party, pan European politicians on a three-day visit (flight and accommodations will be covered and are sponsored by the International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies). Your participation will be as our VIP guest and not in an official capacity as a delegation of Members of the European Parliament,” the email said.
The opposition Congress questioned the background of the NGO and the visiting delegates.
“The credentials of the EU MPs who are travelling to J & K are quite interesting and who runs this mysterious NGO — WESTT that is funding the visit and hosting them. Any guesses,” party spokesman Manish Tewari tweeted.
Another Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said the government should tell people who Sharma was.
“Will the Prime Minister tell as to who is Madi Sharma? Why and in what capacity is Madi Sharma fixing an appointment of Prime Minister with a delegation of EU MPs on a personal visit and why is Government of India facilitating it? Where is the money to finance the entire trip coming from? Why has Ministry of External Affairs been totally sidelined? The truth is that this is the biggest diplomatic blunder in India’s history,” said Surjewala.
Congress also accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of attempting to conceal the “real” situation in the state.
“Opposition leaders like Rahul Gandhi’s delegation was turned back from Srinagar airport last month. But European lawmakers are allowed to visit Jammu and Kashmir, why,” Tewari added.