India Hosts Key G20 Tourism Meeting in Kashmir Under Heavy Security
(CTN News) – Despite increased security and resistance from China, India is conducting a crucial G20 tourism meeting in Kashmir.
Srinagar, the summer capital of the federally administered territory, is hosting the working group meeting from Monday through Wednesday.
Since India abandoned its special status in 2019, this is the area’s largest international gathering ever held.
There will be about sixty representatives present, all representing G20 countries.
China’s Opposition to the G20 Meeting in Disputed Territory
On the other hand, China has stated that it will not be there because of its “firm opposition to holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory.” The BBC has emailed India’s foreign ministry to inquire about their reaction to China’s remark.
India and Pakistan claim all of Kashmir, yet neither country has complete sovereignty there. The nuclear-armed neighbors have fought two full-scale wars and one smaller conflict there.
India’s intention to hold the conference in Kashmir was deemed “irresponsible” by Pakistan in April, which is not a member of the G20.
However, India stated it was “natural” to host G20 events and meetings in “Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, which are an integral and inalienable part” of the country.
In 2019, the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir was split in two, with one-half becoming the federally administered territory of Jammu and Kashmir and the other half becoming the nationally administered territory of Ladakh. Parts of Ladakh are claimed by both India and China, making it a contested border territory along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Indian government and several media outlets use the G20 summit in Kashmir to highlight the region’s culture, calling it a “historic” occasion.
India carried out Several security drills in Kashmir in the days leading up to the event. Since 1989, there has been an armed insurgency against India in the region. India blames Pakistan for igniting the unrest by supporting separatist militants, a claim that Islamabad strongly refutes.
Delhi has consistently refuted allegations of human rights breaches and repression by opposition politicians, activists, and residents through many years and several Indian governments in the volatile region.
Security officials have warned the media that they are taking precautions to prevent any threats intended to derail the G20 meeting, despite an uptick in attacks this year by suspected terrorists in the region.
According to news accounts, elite ground-to-air security troops have been deployed in Kashmir. These forces include marine commandos, National Security Guards, Border Security Force, and police personnel.
The area around Srinagar’s Dal Lake and the meeting’s Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) has also been fortified.
Schools have been closed near the routes that G20 delegates will be using. Banners advertising the G20 summit have been placed over military bunkers, a typical sight in Kashmir.
Former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister Mehbooba Mufti and other local opposition leaders have slammed the federal government’s extensive security arrangements, saying that they make life even more difficult for ordinary people.
In a press conference, Ms. Mufti compared the limitations in Kashmir before the G20 to those at the infamous US military jail, Guantanamo Bay. There has been no reaction from the Jammu and Kashmir government thus yet.
A 53-year-old merchant who spoke anonymously to the BBC said that due to the security measures, locals have had to “face a lot of difficulties” during the past 10 days.
There were numerous frisking, checking, and search operations in residential areas. According to him, “many universities and colleges are closed.”
He also cast doubt on the federal government’s assertion that the summit would benefit the local economy, arguing that only “permanent peace” could have that effect.
Some have challenged the choice to conduct the meeting in Kashmir.
UN special rapporteur on minority problems Fernand de Varennes said in a statement last week that the G20 was “unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy” while human rights violations, political persecution, and illegal arrests were on the rise in Kashmir.
India’s permanent delegation to the United Nations took to Twitter to express its displeasure with the statement.
During the gathering, India promised to promote Kashmir’s cultural heritage and tourism opportunities. An official statement says a meeting will be where tactics for promoting “film tourism” will be discussed, and delegates will be taken on tours of local attractions.
Eighty-five percent of the global GDP and two-thirds of the world’s population live in the 19 wealthiest countries and the European Union that comprise the G20.
India will be hosting the G20 conference in September, as it presently holds the presidency (which rotates annually among countries).