The Honorable Union Minister of State for PMO, Jitender Singh, described the G20 tourism task force meeting as “a time of rejuvenation and reincarnation” for the people of J&K as he kicked off the three-day event in Srinagar on 22 May 2023. Delegates from twenty-nine countries participate in this event. This is the first international gathering at the international level in Srinagar after the repeal of Article 370 in August 2019, underlining the positive changes in J&K. All these delegates will act as ambassadors for India and will spread the message across the world regarding the situation in J&K.
Film tourism has become an effective means of promoting the tourism industry, and the government is working on a comprehensive policy for film tourism in J&K. On this occasion, a draft National Strategy on cinematographic tourism was also released.
Highlighting the beauty and cultural heritage of J&K, the beginning was made with the history of Martand Sun Temple as part of the ancient history of Kashmir shown to the audience. Srinagar is one of the ancient cities of India. All participants were provided with pashmina shawls and Dogri Saffa upon arrival at Srinagar airport.
Although travel and tourism is a private sector, it was reported that all G7 member countries are participating in this meeting. The head of the US delegation, Philip Cunnings, commented that they are happy to support the G20 and to participate in the working group meetings in Srinagar.
On Sunday, India’s G20 Presidency Chief Coordinator Harsh Vardhan Shringla said: “We have the highest representation of foreign delegations for the tourism task force meeting in Srinagar than in the previous task force meetings. .
J&K has suffered from Pakistani sponsored terrorism since late 1988. However, it has regressed in the recent past due to effective measures taken by the security forces backed by development plans launched by the Indian government. J&K is now witnessing a new era of possibilities for growth, peace, and prosperity. Foreign investments are pouring into J&K.
The people of J&K have suffered injustice, exploitation and discrimination due to the misguided policies of the state government for the past seven decades. Successive governments took advantage of the provisions established in article 370.
China has said it will not attend, citing its opposition “to holding any kind of G20 meeting in the disputed territory.” In April, Pakistan, which also claims Jammu and Kashmir but is not a member of the G20, described the meeting as irresponsible. Türkiye, Saudi Arabia and Egypt were also expected to stay away. (The Guardian, May 22, 2023). It is pertinent to mention that only China has registered its protest. Other countries have not said anything, but private players are participating in the meeting.
China’s objection to the meeting at J&K is unfounded. J&K is an integral part of India, and both Pakistan and China illegally occupy the territories of the former J&K state. The original state of J&K, which acceded to India on October 26, 1947, covered 222,236 km2. But today, India physically occupies only 1,06,566 km2 of the original J&K state. Pakistan-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (POJK) has 72,935 km2 minus 5,180 km2 of Shaksgam Valley leased to China in 1963. Chinese-Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (COJK) consists of 37,555 km2 of Aksai Chin plus Shaksgam, and the territory has nibbled over the years, totaling 42,735 km2.
China must not forget that its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the flagship One Belt One Road (OBOR) project, which connects Kashgar in China’s Xinjiang province with Pakistan’s Gwadar port, passes through POJK, which is legally Indian Territory. Sooner or later, the legality of the CPEC will be questioned.
If China thinks that J&K is disputed territory, which it is not, then China should also think of Tibet, where the situation is much worse. In 1965, an Indian representative summed up the situation in Tibet for the benefit of the UN, and the problem is now alarming. The genocide continues and a colonial mentality has set in, which is quite onerous. As the sufferings of the people of Tibet continue, his holiness the Dalai Lama demands to restore the autonomous state of Tibet, which was guaranteed in the 1951 Sino-Tibetan Agreement but remains elusive today. I think supporting the Dalai Lama’s demand for greater autonomy for Tibet would be genuine because India would be living up to a responsibility promised by India some six decades ago. Such support is a moral responsibility and a strategic necessity, and India may reconsider its option if warranted.
The 1954 agreement with China is dead because China attacked India in 1962 and illegally occupied Indian territories. Although India recognized Tibet as an autonomous region of China in a joint communiqué in 1988, genuine autonomy is still lacking and a distant dream.
Expressing concern about the human rights situation in China, Amnesty International said: “The systematic repression of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet continued. The authorities tried to prevent the publication of an OHCHR report documenting possible crimes against humanity and other international crimes in Xinjiang. Women continued to suffer violence and sexual harassment, and other rights violations.” Online censorship became more widespread and sophisticated as a tool to stifle criticism of the government, intensifying around high-profile events and anniversaries.
Pakistan, although not a member of the G20, has opposed India’s decision to hold a G20 meeting in Srinagar. Pakistan has struggled with its worst economic crisis in recent months. People are fighting for the basic necessities of life. Pakistan’s insecurity is understandable. But his choices in dealing with it have often been counterproductive and deeply damaging to himself. But there is no progress in resolving the economic crisis or progress in the process of establishing an elected government. Instead of solving its problems, Pakistan is busy poking its nose into India’s internal affairs.
Hope, harmony, peace and stability are significant ideas that will shape India’s presidency of the G20, a grouping of the world’s most advanced and emerging economies. The G20 provides India, the world’s fifth largest economy, with an excellent opportunity to shape global opinion amid widespread polarization and escalating geopolitical rigidities. India will work tirelessly to promote peace, stability and shared prosperity in a fragmented world.
Conclusion: Picturesque Srinagar is currently hosting the G20 Tourism Task Force meeting despite protests from Pakistan and China. The ‘Millet Hub’ is a unique food stall installed in the Sher-I-Kashmir International Conference Center. (SKICC) to celebrate the International Year of Millet. We hope that this will improve tourism and that such programs will be carried out frequently.
India is promoting sustainable tourism all over the world. After a long gap due to the eruption of terrorism, the new film tourism policy, modern infrastructure and ease of doing business in J&K have made it a favorite destination for film shootings and tourist destinations.
The opinions expressed above are those of the author.
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