India uses the G20 meeting in Kashmir: a conflict area as a tourist area

India used its G20 presidency for tourism meetings in Kashmir and promoted tourism there along with its tough policies.

Indian paramilitaries patrolled a roadblock in Srinagar last Saturday Photo: Dar Yasin/ap

SRINAGAR taz | The Himalayas loom in the background, paramilitaries patrolling in boats and vehicles in the foreground. Additionally, Prime Minister Narendra Modi (BJP) posters line the cityscape in Srinagar, northern India. Kashmir is called “paradise on earth”, even more frequently these days, even though security measures have been tightened.

For months, the Indian government has been preparing for a meeting which, as part of its presidency of the group of leading industrialized and developing countries (G20), has also invited its tourism working group to Srinagar, the summer capital of the Indian-ruled nation. part of Kashmir.

Among India’s more than 200 G20 presidential events, two stood out: a technology meeting in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh in late March, which China canceled due to its own claims to “southern Tibet”, and a meeting in Srinagar in the first half of this week.

Both meetings were criticized for the controversial choice of location by India’s neighbors Srinagar in particular by rival Pakistan, with which India has disputed Kashmir since 1948. Criticism of India resonated with Beijing, after which China joined Islamabad. “We reject any form of G20 meeting in disputed areas,” China’s foreign ministry said.

Small meetings, big conflicts

With this meeting, Delhi certainly wants to show that it controls the conflict area. Nearly 60 foreign delegates from nearly 30 countries came to Kashmir. Türkiye and Saudi Arabia are also moving away from the G20. Riyadh is still sending tourism representatives.

But Oman and Egypt are also missing. They expressed solidarity with Pakistan, which accuses India of “abusing” its G20 presidency. The G20 protest was held in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir.

Tensions with Pakistan are one of the reasons for the many security measures. The gathering is the first major international event in the disputed region since Delhi revoked the partial autonomy of Indian Kashmir in August 2019.

Presently the state is divided into the Union Territory of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh and reports directly to Delhi. The Governor of Kashmir Manoj Sinha (BJP) emphasized the positive changes in recent years. The region has suffered from Pakistan’s state-sponsored terrorism for 30 years. The Modi government has ushered in a new era of peace and growth, said Sinha. Not everyone in Kashmir shares this opinion.

In Kashmir, many accept this situation

Modi is all over the place with his many posters. But the Muslim majority does not feel represented by his Hindu nationalist BJP party. Few said out loud, most accepted the situation. Many are optimistic that tourism will revive.

Last year 18 million visitors came to Kashmir. Although agriculture is also the largest employment here, many see the potential for tourism. The meeting in Srinagar should not only emphasize India’s geographical diversity, but also strengthen local tourism.

“Our aim is to revitalize film tourism not only in Kashmir but across India,” Tourism Minister Kishan Reddy (BJP) said at the summit. More than 300 filming licenses were recently issued in Kashmir. Areas that used to be frequently filmed in Indian films are slowly getting back up.

The gathering was now even into high season. Old travel warnings from Western countries, including Germany, are no barrier. Because all over India, the temperature during the current heat wave is already over 40 degrees.

Tourism has always been in Kashmir

“With this event we can show what we have achieved despite the difficult times. Tourism has always been here,” said Monika Rathore, who came to Srinagar from Jammu, which is heavily influenced by Hinduism. Visits should have become more frequent after an eight year gap.

Several years ago he had set up a dairy business and was invited as an entrepreneur. The violent conflict over the status of the region had nearly brought it to a standstill, he said, but he felt the shift. There are now better roads, hospitals and connections to the winter capital of Jammu. There will probably be at least one recommendation for sustainable tourism at the G20 meeting.

Ambrose Fernandez

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