“The G20 meeting in Kashmir seems a backfired attempt to normalize the occupation. “
After the illegal revocation of Article 370 and 35A by the BJP Government in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019, yet again India has tried to legitimize its action to hold a Tourism Meeting of G20 in Srinagar on May 22-24, 2023. However, The Guardian reports that many G20 member states including China, Saudi Arabia, and Türkiye, along with Egypt and Oman, as special invitees, did not participate in the Srinagar meeting; Indonesia and Mexico were represented by their Delhi-based diplomats. India Today reported that ‘while China made it clear that it will not attend any meeting in Arunachal Pradesh, Ladakh and Jammu and Kashmir, Turkey, Egypt and Saudi Arabia have chosen to distance themselves from the G20 meeting in Kashmir to avoid any controversy.’ And Aljazeera reported that only 60 foreign delegates participated in the said moot; however, the expectation was for over 200 delegates.
Indian media is critical of the Srinagar moot. The Indian Tribune lamented that ‘there is also feeling of being let down after Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Indonesia joined expected absentees China and Turkey in staying away from Kashmir.’ It further stated that ‘all heavyweights in G20, barring China turned up for the Srinagar meeting…but talk was also about missing countries despite efforts to have them send diplomatic staff from Delhi as a last resort.’ Bharat Bhushan writing in the Deccan Herald states that the ‘response to G20 in Srinagar is a diplomatic setback for India.’ He further says that ‘such events make it clear that the situation in J&K is far from normal. The people of J&K have been without democratic representation for four long years.’
Indian authorities hoped that the G20 meeting will show the 2019 changes brought peace and prosperity to the region. However, to project normalcy in Srinagar, the meeting was held under very strict security arrangements; one Kashmiri resident told Aljazeera that it was the ‘normalcy of a graveyard.’ The meeting held near the famous Dal Lake is soaked with the blood of Kashmiris, who sacrificed for the liberation of their homeland. Since 1989, the new generation of Kashmiris has been brought up under intense Indian brutalities, scars of which are hard to vanish from their minds.
It seems that the Indian decision to hold a meeting in the disputed region has backfired, instead, it has internationalized the Kashmir issue once again.
The UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, said that the ‘Indian government was seeking to normalize what some have described as a military operation by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting in a region where fears of human rights violations and violence are rife.’ Renowned American philosopher and critic, Noam Chomsky stated that ‘The most highly militarized region on earth, with population subjected to imprisonment, torture, disappearance, deprived of even the most elementary right, in a criminal occupation. It is unconscionable for G20 to hold any kind of meeting, let alone a tourism meeting, in the capital of occupied and brutalized Kashmir.’ The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CJP) has said that press freedom remains under attack even as India tries to project normalcy in the disputed region. The US-based news agency, Associated Press (AP) reported that ‘G20 delegates begin meeting in disputed Kashmir, with region’s intense security largely out of view’ and the Voice of America (VOA) states that ‘India’s hosting of G20 meeting in disputed Kashmir raises questions of international acceptance.’
Many Western military officers have commanded the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (UNMOGIP), such as Austria, Finland, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, and Croatia. (The UNMOGIP was established under UNSCR 39 of 1948). These countries are familiar with the situation inside the occupied territories and have first-hand ground information. The news about the boycott would have made their governments conscious of the actual situation anew; hence reviving the debate about the Kashmir issue in these states.
The Kashmiri diaspora also launched special campaigns to highlight the Indian illegal and unlawful occupation and defiance of the UN resolutions. The Coalition to Boycott G20 in Kashmir, a movement launched by the US-based NGO, Stand with Kashmir and a US Kashmir Diaspora Coalition (KDC) organized digital campaigns against the Indian move and highlighted the gross human rights violations by India all over the world. And a few Kashmir-origin British MPs also wrote to the UK Government about the hiding of the plight of Kashmiris in the Indian-occupied territories under the cloak of the G20 meeting.
The Indian objective to present the illegally occupied region as a showcase of normalcy has boomeranged; the Kashmir issue has once again been highlighted globally.
As China, a member of the UN Security Council boycotted the meeting, along with some other G20 member states; a UN Representative calls the meeting an instrument to hide human rights violations and violence; the US media reports Kashmir as a disputed territory; and the Kashmiri diaspora got reactivated all over the world.
It is important to highlight that it was India, who initially took the Kashmir issue to the UNSC in 1948; it was after the nuclear explosion by India (and followed by Pakistan) in May 1998 that the US President, Bill Clinton, described Kashmir as a nuclear flashpoint; and it is India, time and again due to its illegal activities, which continues to internationalize the Kashmir issue.
Therefore, Indian forceful and illegal occupation cannot change the realities; it can never eliminate the yearnings of Kashmiris for their right to self-determination enshrined by the global community through UN Resolutions. India must realize that hearts and minds cannot be conquered through the barrel of a gun.
Any illegal Indian act cannot change the hard realities in Jammu and Kashmir, which remains a disputed territory waiting for its final resolution.
The Author is a Professor of International Relations and presently working as a Member Board of Directors, at the Regional Centre for Strategic Studies (RCSS) Colombo-Sri Lanka. He has served as Dean Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Wah, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences at Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad, and Director of School of Politics and International Relations (SPIR), Quaid-i-Azam University. He has over 30 years of teaching, research, and administrative experience. He Tweets @Sheeshgar1