New Delhi/Srinagar, March 9 (IANS) Minister of External Affairs S. Jaishankar on Monday visited Srinagar and assured all help to the parents of Kashmiri students stranded in the coronavirus-hit Iran where 194 people have died due to the epidemic.
Jaishankar’s visit assumes significance given the fact that it is not common that India’s External Affairs Minister goes to Kashmir or interacts with locals regarding their problems overseas.
Official sources said although the government have evacuated some of the 350 Kashmiri students studying in Iran, some were still awaiting evacuation.
Thousands of students and Shia pilgrims from Kashmir visit Iran every year. The students were to return home in Kashmir for annual holidays but got stuck in Iran after several airlines cancelled their flights from Tehran.
Official sources said that many have returned to Kashmir in the last few weeks but the parents of the students yet to return, had approached the Ministry in New Delhi.
Jaishankar arrived in Srinagar on Monday by an early morning Go Air flight, sources said.
He held a detailed meeting with the parents at Kashmir International Conference Centre and assured them that the Ministry will do everything to help the students.
The Minister said that the government was in the process of first evacuating the pilgrims, who are generally older in age and therefore more vulnerable to the coronavirus infection. The students will be evacuated soon after the pilgrims are brought back, he said.
Jaishankar then held a meeting with businessmen from the tourism and trade industry before leaving for Baramulla, North Kashmir to inaugurate the district passport office.
Incidentally, two Hizbul Mujahideen terrorists including a top commander Ishfaq Ahmad of Kulgam were killed in an encounter with the security forces in Rebon area of Shopian while the Minister was on his tour of the valley.