The four-day visit precedes Kashmir EU Week being held in the European Parliament in Brussels from 11 October.

 

Organisers hope the visit and the week will allow for an “exchange of views between individuals concerned with forwarding the dialogue towards finding a peaceful resolution to the issue of Kashmir.”

 

Four senior Kashmiri separatist leaders from Indian-administered Kashmir have been invited to the EU Parliament for the event.

 

Invitees


They are Mirwaiz Umar Faruq, chief Muslim cleric and head of the moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference (an amalgam of separatist political parties), Sayyid Ali Shah Jilani, who heads the rival faction of the group, Muhammad Yasin Malik, chairman of Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front, and Sayyid Shabir Ahmad Shah, the leader of another separatist organisation, Jammu Kashmir People’s Democratic Freedom Party.

 

EU team is meeting Kashmiri
leaders of all hues

Several political leaders and opinion-makers from Pakistani-administrated Kashmir as well as India and Pakistan have been invited too.

 

James Elles MEP said the week aimed to “bring awareness of Kashmir to Europeans”.

 

Meanwhile, in Srinagar, Kashmir's summer capital, the visiting EU delegation held meetings with the region’s chamber of commerce and industry.

 

Economic situation

 

The group discussed the state’s worsening economic situation caused by 15 years of violence.

 

“We are here to meet different shades of opinion and get to know what they think on the issue of Kashmir,” said the EU delegation leader, Netherlands ambassador Eric Niehe.

 

Another member said: “It is not politics alone. We shall talk on everything related to Kashmir be it economy, commerce, tourism, social problems or cultural issues.”

 

Fifteen years of violence has
ruined Kashmiri economhy

Niehe said the visit was part of the EU initiative to find a peaceful solution to the Kashmir issue.

 

The other members are Luxembourg ambassador Paul Steinmetz, European Commission ambassador Francisco da Camara Gomes, British High Commission (in India) Political Counsellor Rob Macaire and Netherlands Embassy First Secretary Erik de Feijter.

 

Closed-door meeting

 

On Monday, the first day, former chairman of the Hurriyat Conference Maulvi Abbas Ansari told the visitors at a closed-door meeting "that it has become imperative for all parties to to resolve the dispute amicably, and sooner the better.”

 

"...it has become imperative for all parties to resolve the dispute amicably, and sooner the better”

Maulvi Abbas Ansari,
former chairman, Hurriyat Conference

Another leader Prof Abd al-Gani Butt said: “We discussed Kashmir with reference to the speeches delivered by the two leaders (India’s Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf) at the United Nations. The smile on their lips alluded to a bright future and a better world.”
 
 

The delegation also met the leaders of Congress, the second major partner of the state ruling coalition, late on Monday evening.

 

The delegation is scheduled to meet the other faction of the Hurriyat Conference led by Sayyid Jilani and other prominent separatist leaders as well as government functionaries, military and security forces officials and human rights activists.

 

At least 40,000 people have died in the conflict in Kashmir, according to official figures, while local human rights groups place the figure in excess of 100,000.