This is the first such international event which is being held in the region after the Narendra Modi government revoked the UT’s special status and despite protests made by Pakistan and China.
By: Shubham Ghosh
The northern Indian Union Territory (UT) of Jammu and Kashmir was hosting the three-day third tourism working group meeting of G20 nations in its summer capital Srinagar starting Monday (22) amid heightened security.
This is the first such international event which is being held in the region after the Narendra Modi government revoked the UT’s special status under the Indian Constitution, earning criticism of both domestic opposition as well as from the neighbouring country of Pakistan which also lays claim to all of Kashmir.
Parts of Srinagar city and the road leading to Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC), the venue for the G20 meeting received a glittering facelift ahead of the event.
A number of cities across India are hosting G20 meetings as the South Asian country is holding the presidency of the grouping this year.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla, India’s former foreign secretary who is currently working as the chief coordinator of India’s G20 presidency, said the country is halfway through its presidency and a total of 118 meetings have been held on its soil.
He also said that the meeting in Srinagar has seen the highest number of participants when compared to two earlier meetings on tourism. The earlier meetings were held in the Rann of Kutch in the western state of Gujarat and Siliguri and Darjeeling in the eastern state of West Bengal in February and April, respectively.
While it was learnt that 60 delegates from the G20 member states were attending the event, the most number of them were coming from Singapore. Delegates also came from countries that are among special invitees.
Countries such as Pakistan and China have opposed hosting the meeting in Srinagar. Saudi Arabia has not registered for the event while Turkey has apparently decided to stay away from the event.
On Friday (19), Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of China’s foreign ministry, said Beijing firmly opposes holding G20 meetings “in any form in disputed areas” and will stay away from such meetings. It also stayed away from a G20 meet took place in the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims to be its part, in March.
Pakistani foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, who was in India earlier this month to take part in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation foreign ministers’ meeting in Goa, slammed India over the G20 meeting in Srinagar on Monday, calling it a “violation of international law”.
India has countered all objections saying it is free to hold meetings on its own territory.
New Delhi kept no stone unturned to ensure tight security for the event in Srinagar. Marine commandos and national security guards have been deployed as part of a ground-to-air security cover.
Anti-drone units have also been activated while personnel from a number of security outfits, including the army, Border Security Force, Central Reserve Police Force and Jammu and Kashmir Police were deployed amid reports that the terrorists may try to disrupt the G20 event. Authorities also imposed restrictions on traffic on various roads, including those used by G20 delegates.
According to officials, the G20 meeting will boost tourism in Kashmir, which has seen a revival in footfalls of domestic and foreign tourists.