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Why is India hosting some G20 events in Kashmir?

Murali Krishnan in New Delhi
April 13, 2023

Undaunted by criticism from Pakistan, the Indian government has announced that it will hold G20 and Youth20 meetings next month in the disputed region of Kashmir.

An artist paints a wall mural of the G-20 Summit logo along a street in Visakhapatnam
India has released a full calendar of events leading up to September's G20 summit — including G-20 and Y20 meetings Image: NOAH SEELAM/AFP/Getty Images

India's decision to hold upcoming G20 meetings in Srinaga, the capital city of Indian-administered Kashmir, has been criticized by Pakistan which said New Delhi is exploiting its membership of an important international group to advance its "self-serving" agenda.

Pakistan's foreign ministry slammed India's choice of venue for the gatherings.

"India's irresponsible move is the latest in a series of self-serving measures to perpetuate its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir in sheer disregard of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions and in violation of the principles of the UN charter and international law. Pakistan vehemently condemns these moves," according to a press release by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

"Such events cannot hide the reality of Jammu and Kashmir being an internationally recognized dispute that has remained on the agenda of UNSC for over seven decades," the statement added.

Is India using G20 to lobby allies?

India took over the presidency of the G20— an economic cooperation bloc comprised of 19 countries and the European Union — in December last year. 

The New Delhi government is expected to host a total of 215 G20 meetings at over 55 locations this year, four of which will be focused on promoting the tourism sector.

Officially, the Indian government did not respond to Pakistan's objections. However, officials privately pointed out that Pakistan had lobbied its G20 allies — such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and China — to stop the meeting in Srinagar.

It is the first time that a major international event is being held in the region's largest city after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government scrapped Kashmir's special status in August 2019 and split it into two federally administered territories.

Since 1947, the Muslim-majority region has been a point of contention between the nuclear armed states of India and Pakistan.

"The G20 meet in Kashmir will serve as an opportunity for India to display the reality to the world that normalcy has returned in the union territory," a senior Indian official told DW.

Plans underway to counter human rights claims

Last week, India released a full calendar of events leading up to the summit, which included G20 and Y20 youth diplomacy meetings in Srinagar and in Leh, in the neighboring union territory of Ladakh.

Around 50 delegates are expected to participate in the G20 meeting in Srinagar that will be an opportunity for India to refute Pakistan's claims of human rights violations in the Kashmir Valley.

Indian officials and former diplomats said the G20 presidency offers an opportunity to showcase New Delhi's leading role in global affairs, particularly at a time when the world is confronting multiple geopolitical and economic crises.

"This is proforma outrage by Pakistan. The reaction is unsurprising, given that the ruling Pakistan Democratic Movement does not want to give reason to Imran Khan to question their Kashmir posture," Ajay Bisaria, a former high commissioner to Pakistan told DW.

"Pakistan would be well advised not to overhype the issue since that would only reduce its own diplomatic space."

"Jammu and Kashmir is a part of India," former diplomat Meera Shankar told DW.

"Its economy is tourism focused and the climate there is very pleasant in May, when temperatures in the rest of India are very high. It is an appropriate venue to hold a tourism-related meeting."

G20 logo displaying the slogan 'one Earth, one family, one future'
India holds the G20 presidency amid tough times, with the world confronting a raft of geopolitical and economic crisesImage: Aamir Ansari/DW

India wants to showcase Kashmir

Preparations for meetings are underway in Srinagar and adjoining areas. Foreign delegates will also be taken on a sightseeing tour to Baramulla, Dachigam National Park, and to the ski resort of Gulmarg.

While violence has subsided in the region since 2019 after the major political makeover, Kashmiris say the tentative peace comes at a cost.

"We still continue to live in fear under the shadow of occupation," Abdul Bhatt, a shopkeeper in Srinagar told DW. "The separatists may have been marginalized and the guns may have gone silent but can we move around and act freely?"

According to rights organization Amnesty International, the Indian government has drastically intensified repression in Jammu and Kashmir and was using unlawful measures and unjust barriers impeding various rights in the region.

"Civil society and media in the region have been subjected to a vicious crackdown by the Indian government, which is determined to stifle dissent using draconian laws, policies and unlawful practices in their arsenal," Amnesty India's Aakar Patel told DW.

"There is a silence achieved on all dissent through heavy-handed repression which has spread fear and uncertainty in the region."

G20 Summit: Delhi removes beggars from streets

Diversionary strategy?

The G20 has emerged as the world's premier intergovernmental forum, comprising both developed and developing countries. The bloc accounts for roughly two-thirds of the world population and 80% of world trade. 

India holds the G20 presidency amid tough times, with the world confronting a raft of geopolitical and economic crises. Foremost is Russia's war on Ukraine, which has triggered an unprecedented food and energy crisis alongside soaring inflation.

Sujan Chinoy, director general of the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses did not assign much weight to Pakistan's outburst, saying it is known to engage in international antics on Jammu and Kashmir.

"By objecting to a normal G20 meeting it seeks to play to the gallery back home and divert attention from political instability and the appalling state of the economy," said Chinoy, who serves as the chair of Think20, an official G20 engagement group.

India is also set to host the G20 leaders' summit in New Delhi in early September.

Edited by: Keith Walker

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