The Centre was not involved in organising the visit of former Norwegian Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik to Jammu and Kashmir, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Friday, adding that he was on a private visit to India.
“…former Prime Minister of Norway Kjell Magne Bondevik was on a private visit to India at the invitation of the Art of Living International Centre (Ved Vigyan Maha Vidya Peeth), Bengaluru. He reportedly visited Jammu and Kashmir on November 23 and met representatives of Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Jammu and Kashmir Youth Development Forum and All Party Hurriyat Conference. Government of India was not involved in organising the visit and meetings,” Ms Swaraj clarified in Rajya Sabha.
Former Norwegian PM Bondevik had visited Jammu and Kashmir in a “surprise” visit to India and met separatist leaders including Syed Ali Geelani and Mirwaiz Umer Farooq in November.
“It has also been reported that he (Mr Bondevik) visited Pakistan and Pakistan-occupied Jammu and Kashmir from November 24-27,” she added.
Underlining that there is no scope for any third party role or mediation in the Kashmir issue, Ms Swaraj said, “There is no change in the government’s consistent and principled position that under the Simla Agreement (1972) and as reiterated in the Lahore Declaration (1999), both India and Pakistan are committed to address all outstanding issues bilaterally”.
Mr Bondevik’s visits to Jammu and Kashmir and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir raised eyebrows, with National Conference (NC) leader Omar Abdullah and his father and former Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah expressing concerns over the former Norwegian prime minister’s visit.
Furthermore, Farooq Abdullah had urged the central government to clarify Mr Bondevik’s purpose of visit, saying he could not have come if they did not want him to. He also asked if the government will hold talks with the separatists.
“The government of India knows, he couldn’t have come if they didn’t want him to. So he has been there, he has talked to separatists, we do not know what talks have taken place, what is going to be the effect of it. The government of India must explain on what initiative did he come, what will be the outcome of it and whether they (government) will also talk to separatists, that is more important,” Farooq Abdullah had said.
Mr Bondevik, who is the chief of the Oslo Center for Peace and Human Rights, served as the Prime Minister of Norway, from 1997 to 2000, and again from 2001 to 2005.