While Prime Minister Narendra Modi Australian hospitality in Sydney, an equally important chapter of India rising was being written in Srinagar, Jammu & Kashmir territory of India. India was hosting the G20 Tourism Working Group Meet in Srinagar attended by G20 countries as the group’s president for 2023. This was the first ever international gig in the territory after the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A which removed territory’s special status and brought it in parity with other parts of India.
Although five countries – China, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Indonesia and Turkey abstained, all other big powerhouses – the US, the UK, Germany, France, Australia, Brazil, Russia, Japan and Argentina – graced the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) by the banks of the famous Dal Lake in Srinagar.
The absence of China and Turkey was perhaps expected in the South Block. But the other three – Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Indonesia not attending represents a failure of diplomacy on India’s part, particularly in light of India’s aggressive efforts to expeditiously increase its bilateral relations with those countries recently.
Their presence at the G20 Meet in Srinagar would have also silenced many a critics of Modi government’s treatment of minorities in the region and added value to India’s stature internationally.
Some food for thought for Dr S. Jaishankar, India’s minister for External Affairs.
The meeting was extremely successful. The G20 delegates arrived in J&K’s summer capital, Srinagar, on Monday, May 22 at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) by the banks of the famous Dal Lake. In the first formal meeting of the group, five key priority areas—green tourism, destination management, MSMEs , skills and digitalization were discussed.
Post deliberations, the delegates were seen enjoying and experiencing J&K’s extremely warm hospitality through its Kashmiri cuisine, art, culture and of course the best in the world – its scenic beauty.
If the comments made by the delegates after the event is any indication, it was a stupendous success.
Some notable comments:
“It puts Kashmir back on the map, and it has shown us that Kashmir is a beautiful place. It will help tourism in Kashmir, but I hope it will also help tourism in the Netherlands. It’s been three fantastic days, Kashmir is very beautiful. The meetings were very well organized and insightful. So I am happy to bring this all back to the Netherlands,” YN Bruggeman, a delegate from the Netherlands, has been quoted in the Indian media.
That exactly was the main aim of choosing Srinagar as the venue for this important international event.
“We thank the Indian presidency for the excellent organization of the G20 3rd Tourism Working Group Meeting in Srinagar, which led to very productive discussions. France participates actively in all G20 tracks,” the French Embassy in India tweeted upon the conclusion of the G20 meeting in Srinagar.
“A big thank you to G20, J&K Tourism, Srinagar administration, and Tourism Ministry of India for a stellar experience at the #G20InKashmir 3rd Tourism WG. We also thank the people of J&K for warmly inviting us to your home. We are honored and will be back,” tweeted Singapore’s high commissioner in India, Simon Wie Kuen Wong.
“The G20 meeting (in Kashmir) was successful. It is a wonderful place, (and) the people here are very kind. I hope more people come here to discover the beauty and diversity of India,” Korean Ambassador to India Chang Jae-bok said in a statement.
Perhaps the biggest ‘thumbs-up’ comes from Professor Tariq Chalkoo, a local educationist and expert on solar energy, wind energy, and media studies, who has been quoted by newsweek.com website saying:
“The G20 Tourism Working Group Meeting in Srinagar was a remarkable move by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to showcase Jammu and Kashmir in a new light. As the first and biggest ever international event since the abrogation of Article 370 and 35A in August 2019, it marks a new era for J&K, which leaves the days of terror, propaganda, conflict, and shutdowns in the past.”