G-20 meet begins in disputed Kashmir

G-20 meet begins in disputed Kashmir

China boycotts and objects to holding meet in ‘disputed territory’

By Hilal Mir

SRINAGAR, Jammu and Kashmir (AA) - The third G-20 working group meeting on tourism began in Jammu and Kashmir on Monday amid a diplomatic spat between the host India and allies China and Pakistan that objected to holding the meeting in a “disputed territory.”

It is the first major international event to be organized after Aug. 5, 2019, when the Muslim-majority region’s autonomous status was scrapped, raising fears that Muslims would be rendered a powerless minority. The event in the region’s capital Srinagar will see the participation of delegates from guest countries and several international organizations, besides representatives from the member nations.

Since then, the Hindu nationalist Indian government has been pushing the narrative that the region was like any other part of India and its autonomy had been a hindrance to its economic development, in addition to breeding separatism.

The three-day meet will conclude on Wednesday.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin last week said his country “firmly opposes holding any form of G-20 meetings on disputed territory."

“We will not attend such meetings," he added.

China holds a small part of the erstwhile state of Jammu of Kashmir, while India and Pakistan administer two bigger territories. Both claim the territory in full. It had called the Aug. 5, 2019 decision, which divided the region into two federally ruled territories besides scrapping its autonomy, an “assault” on its sovereignty.

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry in a statement said: "India's irresponsible move is the latest in a series of self-serving measures to perpetuate its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir."

India rejected the statements and added that Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh “are and always will be integral and inalienable parts of India,” adding that “no other country has a locus standi to comment on the same.”

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia and Mexico have reportedly opted for low-level representation.

The sharpest criticism of the event came from UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes, who said “holding a G-20 meeting in Jammu and Kashmir while massive human rights violations are ongoing is lending support to attempts by India to normalize the brutal and repressive denial of democratic and other rights of Kashmiri Muslims and minorities.”

“... The Government of India is seeking to normalize what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalizing a G-20 meeting and portray an international ‘seal of approval’,” Varennes said in a statement on Monday.

India's diplomatic mission in Geneva rejected Varennes’ statement as “baseless and unwarranted.”

“As G-20 President, it is India’s prerogative to host its meetings in any part of the country,” the Indian mission said. “We are aghast that Fernand de Varennes has acted irresponsibly to politicize this issue, misused his position as SR [Special Rapporteur] to publicize on social media his presumptive and prejudiced conclusions.”

Analysts have told Anadolu Agency that India sent out a message to the world that Kashmir is its non-negotiable part by holding the meeting in the region.

While fending off the criticism, Indian authorities are said to have withdrawn from the itinerary a scheduled sightseeing tour for the guests to a famous ski resort due to security concerns.

Local authorities have renovated several areas of the city for the visiting delegations, especially the main business hub of Lal Chowk, where sidewalks have been rebuilt and roads have been blacktopped. Walls along several key roads have been painted with the Indian government’s G-20 messages.

In a region where an armed anti-India insurgency has been raging for the past 33 years, security measures have been tightened.

Police Director General Vijay Kumar recently told reporters that India’s special forces, including marine commandos and elite National Security Guard troopers, would be deployed to help secure the dignitaries. They would complement tens of thousands of police, army personnel and paramilitary soldiers already deployed across the beautiful valley.

Security would be especially tight after two deadly attacks in the region in April and May, which killed 10 soldiers, including five elite paratroopers.

Schools in a few sensitive areas have been shut for the past several days, while road checks of vehicles by paramilitary soldiers and police have been intensified.

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