Water, Sky, Ground Under Vigil As G20 Summit Begins In Srinagar
Jammu and Kashmir is all set to host the third tourism working group meeting of G20 countries in capital Srinagar from Monday to Wednesday, with multi-tier security arrangements in place to successfully host its first major international event since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
The meeting, under India’s presidency, will be held at Sheri Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) on the banks of the Dal Lake. More than 180 delegates, including 60 from G20 countries, are expected to attend the event.
“The G20 event at Srinagar presents a unique opportunity to highlight the tourism potential and cultural richness of the region,” Union tourism secretary Arvind Singh said at a press briefing in Srinagar.
The senior IAS officer said that the key deliverables of the meeting are “Goa roadmap for tourism as a vehicle for achievable development goals” and G20 ministerial declaration. “The final meeting of G20 tourism ministers will be held in Goa in June…In that context the meeting here assumes significance because the draft which will be adopted by ministers will be finalised in Srinagar,” Singh added.
In terms of participation, Singh said, this working group meeting will have one of the “highest numbers” compared to the last two editions of the event. “We have very encouraging attendance which has really encouraged us to make fool proof and adequate arrangements for the meeting,” he added.
Some member countries have not registered yet, but the last date for doing it is May 22. People familiar with the development said that China and Turkey are yet to register for the G20 meeting. China’s decision is apparently linked to objections by its close ally Pakistan to hold the meeting in a “disputed territory” while Turkey has criticised India’s handling of the situation in Kashmir in past years.
Meanwhile, a multi-tier security apparatus has been put in place particularly around the venue at SKICC. Marine and NSG commandos have been making security drills for the past few days in the city. River and lake domination has been done with the deployment of marine commandos (Marcos) to ensure the water bodies around the meeting venue are safe.
Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) commandos have been conducting mock drills on the lake since Friday.
“A three-tier security system is in place. We are also putting in place air anti-drone technology with the assistance of the NSG and Army, and for the water body — Dal Lake — we have the Marcos team in place in addition to the police,” additional director general of police, Vijay Kumar, had said on Friday. “For a peaceful and peaceful event…police, BSF, CRPF, and SSB personnel are being deployed on the ground.”
The Union territory administration has made efforts to give Srinagar a major facelift in the run-up to the G20 event.
“As we drive around, we see a completely transformed city. We have gone to markets, to riverfront lake areas, and many other places, as compared to last time,” Harsh Vardhan Shringla, chief coordinator of G20, said. “Srinagar today is vastly more beautiful, its facilities and amenities are much greater.”
On Day one (Monday), there will be a meeting of the tourism working group with an inaugural session. In the second session, there will be a presentation on the draft tourism ministers’ declaration and then the feedback from participants, said additional secretary, tourism, Rakesh Kumar Verma.
“On the sidelines we will have very important events, one of film tourism and another of ecotourism. We will also unveil a draft national strategy on film tourism followed by feedback and then panel discussion,” he said.
On the second day, there will be side events focused on Indian industry and states. “This is about promoting incredible India through film tourism. There will be more sessions on this,” Verma said.
On May 24, the delegates will have an excursion while going local for tourism offerings in the city. “We also have two cultural events — one is the Gala dinner on May 22 and the second is the farewell dinner on the last day. We are also planning ODOP (one district one product) souvenirs to highlight products from this region,” he added.
J&K lieutenant governor Manoj Sinha hailed the upcoming event as a “historic opportunity” for 13 million residents of the UT to showcase priceless culture, heritage, tourism and warm hospitality.
“All the citizens should come forward and be a part of this memorable event,” Sinha said in a statement. “The G20 members represent around 85% of the global GDP, over 75% of the global trade, and more than 60% of the world population. Such gathering will accelerate socio-economic development of Jammu Kashmir.”
In view of the global event, traffic movement on the Boulevard road will be diverted from Monday and there will be restricted access to the SKICC from Nehru Park and Gupkar to Kraksangri, the traffic department said in an advisory.
“A large number of delegates from India and abroad are expected to attend. In order to avoid congestion, the advisory is issued to avoid any inconvenience,” SSP traffic Muzaffar Shah said.
Tourism players in the Valley expressed hope that the event will help Kashmir in lifting travel advisories in various countries. “There are travel adversaries in various countries against visiting Kashmir. The delegates of G20 countries will themselves see the situation here and help lift those advisories. I hope LG will also intervene,” said J&K Hoteliers Club chairperson Mushtaq Chaya.