STATE TIMES NEWS
New Delhi: The European Union on Friday said it has taken note of recent steps such as district council elections and the resumption of 4G internet services in Jammu and Kashmir, and was looking forward to a number of other important steps, including the early organisation of the legislative assembly polls.The comments by a spokesperson of the EU came a day after a number of top diplomats from the 27-member bloc returned from Jammu and Kashmir after a two-day visit as part of a trip by 24 foreign envoys.The visit presented the opportunity to see the situation on the ground and interact with local interlocutors as part of the EU’s outreach to all stakeholders, the official said, adding the EU look forward to continuing its dialogue with India on it.“We have taken note of recent steps such as the election of district development councils and the resumption of 4G internet services. The right to freedom of expression online and offline is a key value for all democracies,” the spokesperson added.“We look forward to a number of other important steps to be taken in the political and economic sphere, including the early organisation of the legislative assembly elections,” the spokesperson said.The statement was released by the EU mission in Delhi in response to queries about the visit of EU envoys to the Union Territory of J&K.The EU spokesperson also said the EU ambassador to India and several envoys of EU member states, among other countries, participated in the visit to J&K Kashmir on February 17-18 on invitation of the Ministry for External Affairs (MEA), and the programme included meetings with civil and military authorities, some newly elected political representatives, and selected representatives of civil society.Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs has said that the visit by 24 foreign envoys to Jammu and Kashmir was aimed at enabling them to witness the union territory’s march on the path of inclusive development and the dynamism in the grassroots democratic institutions following the successful conduct of the recent local polls.The comments by MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava came at the end of the two-day visit to Jammu and Kashmir by the envoys.Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, two groups of envoys had visited Jammu and Kashmir.“The idea behind facilitating these visits was to enable Foreign Heads of Missions to get a better sense of the ground situation and the prevailing normalcy in the union territory,” Srivastava said, replying to a media query.“Subsequently, there has been an enhanced interest in the ongoing political and democratic process, including strengthening of grassroots democracy in Jammu and Kashmir,” he said.
“The present visit by the third group of Foreign Heads of Missions, is in this context, to allow foreign envoys to witness, first-hand, Jammu and Kashmir’s march on the path of inclusive development and the dynamism in the grassroots democratic institutions,” he added.The group comprised envoys from Bangladesh, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Cote d’Ivore, Cuba, Estonia, Finland, European Union, Eritrea, France, Ghana, Italy, Ireland, Kyrgyz Republic, Malaysia, Malawi, Netherlands, Portugal, Senegal, Spain, Sweden and Tajikistan.On Wednesday, the group visited Srinagar and Budgam.“Yesterday, the group visited Magam in Budgam district of Central Kashmir and participated in ‘Block Diwas’, a grassroots level democratic outreach initiative organised regularly by the local administration in Jammu and Kashmir, as part of efforts to promote good governance,” Srivastava said.“The interaction at the Block Diwas event provided the envoys an opportunity to hear directly from the general public and local level people’s representatives on the functioning of empowered grassroots democratic institutions, devolution of power and developmental activities,” he added.In Srinagar, Srivastava said they had a very fruitful interaction with the elected representatives of the Urban Local Bodies, District Development Councils (DDC) and the Block Development Councils (BDC) from all the districts of the Kashmir Division representing various regional and national political parties.“During the interaction, the Chief Justice highlighted the role played by the judiciary in enhancing access to the legal system for the common people in Jammu and Kashmir, including to preserve rule of law and protect the rights of the people,” the MEA spokesperson said.
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