G-20 Tourism Group Meeting: A Pretense of normalcy

by Tayyaba Khurshid
After revoking the special autonomy of Kashmir in 2019, India is now holding the G-20 Tourism Group Meeting in the heart of Kashmir to paint a false image of normalcy. Hosting the meeting in Srinagar, home to 1.4 million residents, is an attempt by the Indian government to legitimize its 2019 move of revoking articles 370 and 35 A, which provided special autonomy to the region. India claims that the meeting will help boost the tourism industry in the region as the delegates will visit the Himalayan Valley. The preparations for the meeting included painting security bunkers, coating roads with tar, illuminating lampposts in Indian flag colors, removing concertina wires that covered most of the region, and installing Indian flags everywhere, including roads, schools, and colleges. However, this facade of normalcy painted by the Indian government cannot hide the sufferings of the Kashmiri people who have struggled for the past 76 years and sacrificed their lives for freedom from Indian occupation. While India will continue to engage in such moves to present Kashmir as its integral part where the situation is normal and there is economic prosperity, world leaders, particularly the member countries of the G-20, should not ignore these actions of India. The world knows the disputed territory and how the two nuclear arch-rivals have fought three major wars and come face to face many times over Kashmir. Kashmir has been a bilateral issue between two states. India is illegally strengthening its tentacles in Kashmir, violating international law, United Nations Security Council Resolutions on Kashmir, and the bilateral nature of the dispute. The world has seen the post-revocation scenario in Kashmir, where the region remained under curfew and lockdown for many months, where thousands of additional troops were sent to the region, where internet and telecommunications were shut down. Political leaders were arrested and tortured with continuous episodes of detentions, torture, killing, mass rape, political persecutions, arbitrary arrests, suppression of free media, and whatnot. However, no one condemns Indian moves for their own interests. When Pakistan’s Foreign Minister went to the SCO Summit in Goa, he condemned this move of hosting a meeting in a disputed territory as a violation of law and UNSC resolution. He demanded the reversal of the revocation of Article 370 by India. The Indian Foreign Minister arrogantly responded, “Wake up and Smell the Coffee. 370 is history”. His attitude reveals India’s disrespect and disregard for the law, UNSC resolution, and the demands of Kashmiris. The BJP government under Narender Modi has decided to change Kashmir’s status quo through force and aggression unilaterally. The G-20 members, especially the European Union, should raise their concerns about this meeting and boycott it as responsible members of the international community to show their regard for Law and the United Nations. As the director of the South Asia Institute at Wilson Center in the US, Michael Kugelman suggests the real goal of New Delhi to hold this meeting is to present a false image of all is well, which the world will buy because much of the international community already appears to believe that Kashmir is no longer a conflict or a dispute. Many, if not most, governments have set aside the human rights violations in Kashmir to preserve their friendly relations with India as a key trade and investment partner and a huge market for them. Hence, the Western world and the Muslim states have stayed quiet. Among the few voices that are there to challenge the Indian legitimacy over Kashmir and holding of G-20 Meeting in Srinagar is Pakistan which is not a member of G-20; UN expert Fernand de Varennes, to whom India had already responded by stating that his allegations are baseless and unwarranted; China that wants the resolution of Kashmir as per UN resolution; and Turkey which expected to boycott the meeting among the G-20 members. Otherwise, the Narender Modi government is well equipped to paint a false image of normalcy, putting an everlasting Lid on the miseries of Kashmiri people who demand nothing but freedom from Indian occupation. The long-standing nature of the Kashmir issue, the human rights violations in IIOJK, and India’s unilateral moves to change the Destiny of Kashmiris without their will and consent need a robust response and condemnation by the international community, the Western world, international and regional organizations, and multinational corporations.   *The author is Researcher at the Centre for International Strategic Studies and pursuing her MPhil in International Relations from Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad.  **The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Diplomatic Insight. The organization neither endorses nor assumes any responsibility for the content of this article.

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