China and Saudi Arabia boycotted a conference held in Kashmir, the first such event since India unilaterally took direct control of Kashmir in August 2019. As a result, India’s G20 presidency has been dogged by controversy.
About 60 representatives from the majority of G20 nations attended the meeting, a working group on tourism, which was held from Monday through Wednesday, necessitating a significant display of security at Srinagar International Airport.
In an effort to fully integrate the disputed Muslim-majority territory into India, the Indian government stripped it of semi-autonomy and divided it into two federal regions in 2019.
The conference was intended to demonstrate to Indian officials that the contentious reforms had brought “peace and prosperity” to the area and that it is a secure location for tourists.
The counter-drone squad and marine commandos of India’s elite National Security Guard were assisting police and paramilitary personnel in securing the event locations.
China has said that it will not go, citing its steadfast objection to “holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory.” Pakistan, which also claims Kashmir but is not a G20 member, criticised the gathering in April as being irresponsible. Indonesia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia were also anticipated to abstain.
Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister of Jammu and Kashmir, alleged that India had transformed the area into a replica of Guantánamo Bay’s prison in order to host a conference on tourism. Additionally, she charged that the G20 had been seized by the Bharatiya Janata Party, which is led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, for commercial gain.
In a statement last week, Fernand de Varennes, the UN’s special rapporteur on minority problems, claimed that the G20 was “unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy” at a time when Kashmir was experiencing an increase in human rights abuses, political persecution, and wrongful arrests.
According to him, the gathering ran the potential of normalising what some have called a military occupation. India’s permanent representative to the UN in Geneva condemned the assertion as being unfounded. It was India’s prerogative to hold G20 meetings in any part of the country, the mission said.
In 2019, India partitioned Jammu and Kashmir, a state with a majority of Muslims, into Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, two federally controlled territories. Both China and India contend that a portion of the disputed border region known as Ladakh is their territory.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the chief coordinator for India’s G20 presidency, stated on Sunday: “For the tourism working group conference in Srinagar, we have the largest presence from international delegations than we have had in the past working group meetings.
“Our experience is that in any working group meeting, to get such a large turnout of delegates not only from G20 countries but also from international organisations that are part of the G20 is an incredible process. If you have to do a working group on tourism in India, we have to do it in Srinagar. There is no option.”
Alex Ellis, the high commissioner of Britain to India, announced that there would be UK participants in the meeting. The UK PM and Modi met at the G7 summit in Hiroshima to talk about the development of a free trade agreement. India is still upset about what it sees as a lackadaisical UK police response to the pro-Khalistan extremist attack on the Indian high commission in London on March 19. Security outside of the commission has been increased.
The G20 rotates whose member holds the chair each year, and India’s presidency was always going to be contentious given India’s close commercial ties to Russia and the Modi administration’s desire to shield Russia from criticism by western G20 members about Ukraine. The Indian government claims that Ukraine is irrelevant to the status of the global economy, which is the G20’s main goal, or to its core agenda items of inclusive growth, debt restructuring, and climate funding. Kyiv has asked to attend a summit in September.
Last year, when Indonesia hosted the G20 conference, Vladimir Putin sent his seasoned foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, instead of himself.