A delegation of Members of European Parliament (MEP) is visiting Kashmir as they landed in the valley on Tuesday (September 29). This is the first time an international delegation is visiting Kashmir after the state turned into a Union Territory on August 4. And what has blown up this visit in the Indian media is the fact that a certain Madi Sharma has led this trip apart from the discourse that the delegation only includes MEPs of right-wing or centre-right parties.

It is not an official visit initiated by the European Parliament or the Indian government.

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Sharma’s shining promise to the MEPs

Sharma, the founder of the Madi Group, has facilitated the travel of a group of 23 members of the European parliament. The self-proclaimed international business broker, Sharma is the one who sent out invitations to the MEPs with a promise of meeting with PM Narendra Modi and a visit to Jammu and Kashmir. On October 28, the delegation met with PM Modi national security adviser Ajit Doval, and external affairs minister S Jaishankar at the PM residence in New Delhi where Sharma was present too. The delegation also met with cross-section Kashmiris at a lunch organised by Doval in New Delhi and in Srinagar. On Wednesday, they were seen enjoying a Shikara ride in a deserted Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Madi Sharma EU Delegation Kashmir
The Members of European Parliament, calling on the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi, at 7, Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi on October 28, 2019. (Madi Sharma with a scarf)

 

Serial Entrepreneur and organiser

However, Sharma’s association with this entire trip has stood out to the Indian media. Her website claims that her ventures Madi Group “is a Group of International Private and Social Enterprises and NGOs with a mission: Local Action, Global Impact.” Besides this, she also runs Brussels-based Women’s Economic and Social Think Tank (WESTT) claiming to work on concrete solutions for issues facing the development and progress of women in international communities. Sharma claims to run several other ventures apart from these two too.

While Sharma sent out the invites to the MEPs as the founder of WESTT, the trip was sponsored by an organisation called International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS). A quick internet search will tell you that Sharma has links to the IINS, founded by the Srivastava Group and has an office in New Delhi’s Safdarjung Enclave, as the Srivastava Group also runs a media publication called New Delhi Times for which Sharma is an EU Correspondent. The same group also founded EP Today which is a monthly news magazine focussing on the European Parliament. Sharma also writes for EP Today. On September 14, she wrote an article for the EP Today titled, “Why demolishing Article 370 is both a victory and a challenge for Kashmiri women.”

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While Sharma sent out the invites to the MEPs as the founder of WESTT, the trip was sponsored by an organisation called International Institute for Non-Aligned Studies (IINS).

Similar trip to the Maldives in 2018

In 2018, Sharma led a similar expedition to the Maldives in which she took a small group of MEPs to the island to “observe the election” as the island was about to go for elections at that time. She took three MEPs, Tomas Zdechovsky, Maria Gabriela Zoana, and Ryzsard Czarnecki to the island. Of these Zdechovsky and Czarnecki are also there in the delegation visiting Kashmir. After their visit to the Maldives, the team published a report alleging that the situation on the island was worrying under the rule of the, then President, Abdulla Yameen. Yameen ended up losing the election to Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, an opposition leader, who was seen as favourable towards India.

UK’s Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament, Chris Davies revealed that he too got the invitation from Sharma on behalf of WESTT on October 7. But it was withdrawn by the Indian government after he demanded that he is allowed to talk to the civilians in Kashmir freely without the chaperoning of the security forces.

Picture credit: ODB Brussels

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