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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's campaign to show normalcy in the Indian occupied territory of Jammu and Kashmir has backfired. Three member countries of the G20 boycotted the tourism event in Srinagar. The rest of them sent local embassy staff to attend. The event also drew negative worldwide media coverage of the brutality of India's "settler colonialism" in the disputed territory. It elicited strong condemnation from the United Nations. Prior to the event, India’s tourism secretary, Arvind Singh had promised that the meeting will not only “showcase (Kashmir’s) potential for tourism” but also “signal globally the restoration of stability and normalcy in the region.” The Modi government failed to achieve both of these objectives.
|G20 Meeting in Indian Military Occupied Kashmir|
China, Saudi Arabia and Turkey did not attend the G20 event in Srinagar. Rest of the G20 members sent diplomats posted in New Delhi to attend it. It's not unusual for foreign diplomats to visit disputed territories such as Jammu and Kashmir. Last year, Donald Blome, US Ambassador to Pakistan, visited what he called "Azad Jammu and Kashmir". The G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Kashmir drew condemnation from China and the United Nations.
“China firmly opposes holding any form of G20 meetings on disputed territory. We will not attend such meetings,” said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin at a press briefing on May 19 in Beijing.
Fernand de Varennes, U.N. special rapporteur on minority issues, criticized the meeting, saying that by hosting the session in Kashmir, “India is seeking to normalize what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting and portray an international 'seal of approval’.”
The UN representative warned the G20 of “unwittingly providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecutions, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate.”
|Heavy Indian Security Presence at Dal Lake For G20 in Kashmir. Sour...|
International Media Coverage:
The global media coverage of the G20 meeting in Kashmir has largely been negative. It has highlighted the brutal occupation of the region by the Indian military.
A piece in The Conversation accused India of "using the G20 summit to further its settler-colonial ambitions in Kashmir". It pointed out that the "route to Gulmarg (G20 event location) is lined with barbed wire. Armed soldiers keep watch from fortified bunkers". The Conversation piece offers the following advice to anyone visiting Indian Occupied Kashmir:
"Those visiting (Indian Occupied) Kashmir must first learn about the decolonial history of the region, one that honors Kashmiri calls for self-determination and sovereignty. They must follow the principle of do no harm by not visiting tourist sites or using tour operators run by Indian authorities. They should support local Kashmiri-run businesses as much as possible. There is no simple resolution for tourism on occupied lands. Tourism amid settler-colonialism manifests in exploitation, dispossession, commodification and other injustices and inequities. The goal of ethical travel is not immediate perfection or self-exoneration. It is an invitation to think about our own actions and complicity".
A story in "The Guardian" noted that the G20 Kashmir meeting "required a large show of security at Srinagar international airport". It added: "India’s presidency of the G20 group of leading nations has become mired in controversy after China and Saudi Arabia boycotted a meeting staged in Kashmir, the first such gathering since India unilaterally brought Kashmir under direct control in August 2019".
Voice of America reported that the "security moved into the background to give a sense of normalcy amid reports of mass detentions" as the event drew closer.
Prime Minister Modi's PR campaign has clearly backfired. His government's actions have failed to project any sense of normalcy in the disputed region. In fact, Mr. Modi's blunders have helped internationalize the issue of Kashmir on the world stage. They have drawn China further into the Kashmir dispute, particularly in the Ladakh region where the Chinese troops have taken large chunks of what India claims as its territory.
In an Op Ed for the Deccan Herald, Indian Journalist Bharat Bhushan has accused Modi government of "overplaying its hand in organizing a G20 event in Srinagar". He has summed up the fallout from the G20 Kashmir Meeting failure as follows:
"Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming State visit to the United States makes this rebuff on J&K by the international community, especially significant. What might have been ignored by India and perhaps down-played, at least publicly by the US, in the build-up to the Modi-Biden summit, will now become an additional irritant in the bilateral relationship. Did the Modi government bait fate by overplaying its hand in organizing a G20 event in Srinagar?"
Here's India's JNU Professor speaking about illegal Indian occupation of Kashmir, Manipur and Nagaland:
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