December 2018 News

Norwegian Ex-PM's Valley Visit Personal, Clarifies Envoy

1 December 2018
The Tribune
Smita Sharma

New Delhi: Norway is not mediating in the Kashmir conflict and its government has no official role to play in it, the country's envoy to India has clarified. In the first remarks since a meeting between former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and separatist leaders in Kashmir was reported, the Ambassador stressed that the visit was in a personal capacity. 'When a former Prime Minister visits a foreign country, the concerned mission is aware of the visit. The Norwegian government was not involved officially in his meetings. The former Prime Minister runs a 'peace centre' and he made the visit in a personal capacity. We have no more knowledge about the purpose of his visit,' Ambassador Nils Ragnar Kamsvag told The Tribune. Bondevik, who heads the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, in a surprise visit to the Valley on November 23, met Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq of the joint resistance leadership. After a brief stopover in Delhi on his way back, Bondevik also met president of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir Sardar Masood Khan and was received by top Pakistani leaders, including Foreign Minister SM Qureshi. Political opposition in Kashmir raised eyebrows, asking if the Modi government had sought any mediation from Bondevik or Norway. The Norwegian Embassy in Delhi clarified that the Oslo Center worked in partnership with the Art of Living and Bondevik himself had said he was invited by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to visit the volatile Valley. Incidentally, Kamsvag was in Goa for a conference and did not meet Bondevik. The longest-serving former Norwegian PM mediated previously between Colombo and Tamil Tigers during the Sri Lankan civil war. India is opposed to any third party or foreign intervention in the Kashmir and maintains it must be resolved bilaterally with Pakistan. Foreign envoys posted in Delhi travel to Kashmir based on prior clearances and have avoided meeting separatists for many years now. Stressing the need to break the ice between India and Pakistan on Kashmir, Mirwaiz Umar Farooq told The Tribune, 'The Oslo Center has done work in many conflict situations. India and Pakistan must not be averse to looking at the role of a third party, which is non-partisan.'