China and Turkey are among G20 member states that won’t attend a tourism working group meeting to be held in Srinagar next week while several other countries will have low-level participation in the event, people familiar with the matter said.
The meeting, to be held during May 22-24, is being billed as one of the largest international events to be organised in Kashmir in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019. Tight security arrangements have been put in place around the venue, Sher-e-Kashmir International Conventional Centre (SKICC) on the banks of the Dal Lake. It was unclear if Indonesia, the last president of the G20 and a member of the grouping’s troika, would participate in the meeting in Srinagar.
India has dismissed objections from Pakistan over the holding of G20 meetings in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, saying such events are being organised in all states and union territories ahead of the summit in New Delhi in September.
China, which skipped a G20 meeting held in Arunachal Pradesh in March, and Turkey will not attend the meet in Srinagar, the people cited above said. China’s decision is apparently linked to objections by its close ally Pakistan while Turkey has criticised India’s handling of the situation in Kashmir in past years.
Several other countries, both G20 member states and guest countries invited by India to be part of the G20 process, are expected to have low-level participation at the meet in Srinagar, the people said. These countries are likely to be represented by diplomats from their embassies in New Delhi instead of officials from their respective capitals, the people added. Saudi Arabia and Mexico are likely to be among these countries.
Host countries can pick venues for the G20 events, and since Jammu & Kashmir is an integral part of India, New Delhi is well within its rights to schedule an event in Srinagar. India will also likely want to showcase its developmental work in the region, as well as the tourism potential of the Union Territory.
“The main event will be held at SKICC on May 22 and 23. We are expecting more than 100 delegates of the G20 states and guest countries,” a senior officer at SKICC said.
“We have refurbished the conference centre to international standards and an eco-friendly environment has been created for the delegates. Everything is being done to make this event sucessful and to showcase the culture, tourism and art of Jammu and Kashmir.”
There will be a display of handicrafts and arts of Kashmir during a session at SKICC and a cultural event for which artists from different parts of the union territory have completed rehearsals.
The commissioner secretary for tourism, Abid Rashid, said the meeting will be used to encourage member countries to lift their travel advisories on Kashmir. “There will be officers from countries that have issued negative travel advisories. I hope they will consider lifting these advisories after the event,” he said.
Special emphasis is being laid on security for the venue and review meetings are being held daily by top officials of security agencies. Security has also been enhanced for two top hotels in Srinagar where the delegates will stay. The delegates may visit the ski resort of Gulmarg, though officials said a final call is yet to be made about the trip due to security concerns.
Additional director general of police Vijay Kumar said the security details have been finalised. “We have instructed officials of various agencies and the administration to cooperate closely with police and security force for a successful G20 meeting. All magistrates and police officers have been instructed to identify rumour mongers, if any, and take preventive measures,” he said.
The Jammu and Kashmir administration has launched an advertisement campaign on social media and national media to promote the meeting and developmental projects. For the past month, a series of events related to G20 have been held across Jammu and Kashmir by various departments, especially in schools. A Youth-20 meeting was held at Kashmir University.
Srinagar has been spruced up for the event and the administration has been on a major renovation drive in the run up to the event. Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) commissioner, Athar Amin Khan, said all projects under the smart city project have been completed or are on verge of completion. The airport road and flyover have been spruced up and the city has been illuminated.