Against the tide, against pride
Blurb: While Srinagar hosted the G-20 meet with great passion and purpose, our neighbors and some of the mainstream parties missed the boat and failed to embrace the summit.
INDIA holds the pride of a year-long G-20 presidency after taking the baton from Indonesia on December 1, 2022. And indeed, it’s an opportune moment for the nation to showcase its policies and leadership roles to the rest of the world. This is India’s opportunity to change the discourse of international affairs and align its national priorities with global aspirations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has termed this presidency as a proud moment for the 125 crore Indians by way of which it has assured the South Asian countries that India will remain their voice on the global arena.
The G-20 presidency has helped India to upgrade its think-tanks, infrastructure and social capital. It’s a rare occasion which will see the country host 250 meetings across its length and breadth.
Srinagar, the summer capital of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir, was chosen as the host city for the G-20 working group meeting on tourism. This city, hemmed in by the massive Himalayas, beautiful lakes, a serene and pleasant climate, with a huge potential in tourism, saw this as an opportunity to showcase its beauty to the whole world. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha and his administration took up massive infrastructural work before the commencement of the meeting on May 22. And indeed, Srinagar wore a festive look with all the roads leading to the venue adorning modern engineering designs and marvels.
But while Srinagar enjoyed hosting this event, there are some that have been reeling in apparent unhappiness over this moment of glory.
- Neighbour’s envy?
It’s no news that spoilsport Pakistan tried hard to stop the countries it is friendly with, from visiting Srinagar, by evoking the same old rhetoric of dispute and human rights violation. But this powerful group of 20 countries, including the European Union, without really caring, thronged to the Valley and enjoyed the three days of the event with great fervour.
Meanwhile the people in J&K saw G-20 as an opportune moment to build the world class image of Jammu and Kashmir.
But there are those that did not participate with the same positivity and missed the boat.
- Mainstream parties & their lost chance
Some of the mainstream political parties of Jammu and Kashmir didn’t embrace the G-20 meeting as they should have. Most heads of the leading local parties criticised the LG administration and the Government of India for projecting the meeting as a sign of normalcy. While the event was being prepared for and held, the spokespersons of these local parties remained busy in their studios, targeting & criticising the central government, the LG administration and the Smart City administration. Without acknowledging the benefits of hosting such a meeting, they indulged in politics by publishing pictures depicting security forces placed behind the posters of G-20.
Pertinently, after the abrogation of Article 370, no major tragedy has taken place in Jammu and Kashmir and nearly after four decades, an international event has taken place in the heart of Srinagar.
But look at those who projected an opposing view. Umesh Talashi, additional spokesperson, National Conference, blamed the government for portraying as if all were hunky dory in J&K which, as per him, is completely opposite from the reality. Said he, “If the G-20 event can happen in Kashmir, what obstructs the government from conducting elections in the UT? Actually the central government is aware that the people of the Union Territory aren’t happy with the decision of downgrading of the state into a UT and that is why they fear defeat in both the regions”.
Well, these local mainstream politicians need to understand that such an international event has no bearing on the local elections. By shying away from embracing the G-20 delegates, they placed themselves in a questionable stand and have missed an opportunity to do their bit for the welfare of the UT.
People’s Democratic Party leaders too remained tight-lipped while their leader was on a visit to Karnataka as a guest following an invitation by the new Congress government for their swearing-in ceremony.
Meanwhile, the Apni Party leader Altaf Bukhari, in a statement, welcomed the G-20 leaders and maintained that the event would help Kashmir to etch a pride of place on the global tourism map.
On the other hand, the sister of Omar Abdullah posted a picture on Twitter where a group of CRPF personnel could be seen hiding behind the poster of G-20. She wrote: “How to give an air of normality? Hide the forces behind screens”.
Ridiculing and calling her tweet ‘out of context’, Mayor of Srinagar Junaid Azim Mattoo turned the pages of history wherein the former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah had invited singer Zubin Mehta for a concert in the city after the vicious bloodshed of 2010. Junaid said, “Apparently people are fishing for pictures of security pickets, mocking why they are aesthetically covered. Remember the Zubin Mehta concert at Shalimar? The civilian killing? Putting entire Srinagar under siege for a private opera for your friends and family? What hypocrisy”.
- A feather in Srinagar’s cap
Pertinently, G-20 is a huge success in Srinagar and the administration made all the arrangements to make the event successful.
LG Manoj Sinha said, on the occasion: “J&K will soon find a place among the top 50 destinations in the world and on the travel bucket-list of global travellers. I would like to tell our guests that whenever they come to Kashmir next time, we would like to host them and take them to Gulmarg”.
Let it be mentioned here that the visit of the G-20 delegates to Gulmarg was cancelled due to logistic support and restricted time.
After the insurgency of the 1990s, tourism in Kashmir had witnessed a sharp dent and the place remained confined to the domestic tourists alone. The G-20 countries which form 60% of the global population, will help the region regain its lost glory and a new dawn of tourism and peace waits to rise in the Valley.
Nasir Ali Khan, chairman, Kashmir Road Safety Foundation, says: “J&K is exhibiting its market prospects, eco-tourism ventures and cultural assets to the leading global nations. There should be a positive impact on the tourism industry and trade sectors of the region”.