EU May Withdraw J&K Travel Warning
19 June 2004
The Asian Age
Srinagar: The European Union is likely to withdraw its adverse travel advisories on Jammu and Kashmir. The advisories, like those issued by the United States and some other countries from time to time, notify the state as being a dangerous place to be visited and ask their respective citizens to avoid visiting it. The issue was discussed threadbare at a roundtable conference between a 22-member European parliamentary delegation, currently on a visit here to ascertain firsthand the future aspirations of all stakeholders interested in resolving the dispute over the state, and a 17-member group of Indian officials, legislators, members of NGOs and businessmen. Mr N.N. Vohra, a seasoned bureaucrat and the Centre's interlocutor on Kashmir, headed the Indian delegation. A communiqué on the deliberations of the roundtable is likely to be issued late on Saturday. An official associated with the roundtable, however, said that apart from discussing how to make joint efforts to help the ailing economy of the state, the possibility of discontinuing the practice of identifying Kashmir as a dangerous place in travel advisories issued by EU countries also came up for consideration. Mr Roger Briesch, the European co-chairman of the roundtable, told a press conference on Friday that the IERT, the seventh held in India so far, was aimed at strengthening trade and tourism ties between India and the European Union. 'It also discussed the broader exchanges between the two sides and deliberated on improving people- to-people contact,' he said, with the help of an interpreter. The press meet, however, turned into a debate and somewhat acrimonious affair when the EU ambassador to India, Mr Francisco Da Camara Gomes, questioned the wisdom of a reporter who posed a pointed question that if by choosing Srinagar as the venue for the roundtable, the European Union had only endorsed New Delhi's claim that Kashmir is an integral part of India. 'I don't know why this question is being raised here. We have been working with India and Kashmir for a long time. We have treated Kashmir as any other part of the country,' Mr Gomes said. The EU delegation on Friday evening, called on Jammu and Kashmir's chief minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed, who had assured that the team is free to meet whosoever it wanted as his government believes in transparency. 'The two sides discussed the development scenario in Jammu and Kashmir,' an official spokesperson said.