November 2018 News

Ex-Norway PM's Visit To Srinagar Had NSA Doval's Blessing: Report

27 November 2018
Kashmir Observer

Srinagar: Former Norwegian prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik, under whom Norway negotiated peace between the Sri Lankan government and LTTE rebels, last week met joint resistance leaders in Srinagar. The visit had the blessings of National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and was part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi government's decision to open up Jammu and Kashmir to foreign leaders, ambassadors accredited to the government of India, as well as other influential people in the hope that the visitors will see 'that the situation is not as bad as it is made out to be in the media', according to a media report. Bondevik met Hurriyat leaders Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, with the visit being brokered by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's Art of Living, reported ThePrint . The meeting between Bondevik and the Hurriyat, at which an Art of Living representative was present, is a huge change in the Modi government's mindset - for the last several months, it has been trying to forge a government in the state which would be mentored by the BJP, it said. Change of heart and head In an election year, just as Modi hopes to take credit for opening up the Kartarpur Sahib corridor to Pakistan, a change of both heart and head vis-à-vis Kashmir seems to have taken place in Delhi. For the first time, there is some acknowledgement that the Kashmir problem cannot be solved just by 'killing 400 young men in south Kashmir', a figure which BJP leaders have often cited in their defence of the muscular approach it adopted in government. Bondevik, who was Norway's Prime Minister until 2005, is currently heading the Oslo Centre for Peace and Human Rights. The meeting with Hurriyat Conference leaders was surprising, Mirwaiz had acknowledged. 'When we received a call a day before the visit, we were surprised. This is our first such meeting with a foreign dignitary in six years. New Delhi had always objected to any such visit to us and for some time now, foreign diplomats would also hesitate to meet us,' Mirwaiz told Indian Express. 'It is clear that this visit was possible only after the go-ahead by New Delhi. Sri Sri Ravishankar's representative was accompanying the former Norwegian PM,' Mirwaiz said. 'He (Bondevik) told us that the main purpose of his visit is to assess the situation on the ground. We explained our viewpoint to him. We don't know what will be the outcome of this initiative. But we are hopeful that this leads to a meaningful beginning between the two countries, especially at a time when the opening of the Kartarpur corridor has been the first such positive measure taken by the two countries in some time now,' he had said. 'He told us that because relations between the two countries (India and Pakistan) have been frozen for some time now, there is a need to help bring it back on track. He said violence is a problem. He talked about the need to take both sides of Kashmir along as well,' he said, adding that Bondevik had come for a day and was accompanied by a representative of the Art of Living from Delhi. 'He spoke to us and then had one or two meetings. He told us he would hold a few meetings with officials in Delhi before he heads to Pakistan where he will visit Azad Kashmir as well,' Mirwaiz had said.