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The Three-day G20 Tourism-related Meetings in Kashmir Conclude "Peacefully"

Anees Zargar |
The G20-related event was one of the most high-profile programs organised in Srinagar in years despite security challenges, especially in the aftermath of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A in August 2019.

Srinagar: The delegates for the G20 Working Group on Tourism returned from Srinagar on Thursday as the major event concluded peacefully in the region amidst heightened security arrangements, officials said.

Kashmir's Additional Director General of Police (ADGP) Vijay Kumar hailed the security grid, including the police, paramilitary and other armed forces, for their efforts during the last three days – between May 22-24 – for the smooth conduct of the event.

"ADGP Kashmir Shri Vijay Kumar-IPS congratulates officers and jawans of JKP, CRPF, Army, BSF, SSB, NSG, MARCOS, NDRF and intelligence agencies for conducting incident-free and successful G20 Summit," the Kashmir Zone Police said in a statement.

The G20-related event was one of the most high-profile programs organised in Srinagar in years despite security challenges, especially in the aftermath of the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A in August 2019.

"The successful culmination of the Third Tourism Working Group (TWG) meeting of the G20 in Srinagar with the participation of nearly 60 foreign delegates is a tribute to the people of Srinagar and their spirit of hospitality. Gratitude to all those involved in ensuring this," Mayor of Srinagar Junaid Mattu tweeted.

During the three-day event, the entire region was put under a three-tier security blanket, including aerial drone surveillance. The authorities had deployed the elite National Security Guard (NSG) and Marine Commandos (MARCOS) in and around the venue to secure it. The schools in Srinagar were also closed for three days.

As the event concluded, the delegates from member countries visited several spots in Srinagar city, including the famous Mughal gardens, Royal Springs Golf Course and the newly revamped Polo View market in the Lal Chowk area, where the visitors also shopped for Kashmir's artefacts.

Around 57 foreign dignitaries from 27 countries and over 100 delegates from union ministries and other organisations from Delhi were part of the meeting held in the picturesque Sher e Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) on the Boulevard Road built on Dal Lake.

The dignitaries released a draft for the national strategy on film tourism as the Ministry of Tourism signed MoUs with the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce & Industry (FICCI) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) for film tourism promotion in the country.

Throughout the event, the officials and delegates promoted Kashmir as a major tourist destination in India and called for further exploration. The delegates also prepared a roadmap and declaration for the final meeting on Tourism to be held in Goa later this year.

During the sightseeing, even as delegates from countries including Turkey, Russia and the US mostly avoided media interaction, others, including those from Korea and Singapore, were delighted to be here for the meeting. Many hoped for an improved security situation in the region for tourism to grow.

"This will be an unforgettable memory for me, and more tourists from Korea will come to Kashmir, but it will take some time. J&K people have to do more to attract more tourists as there are some limitations to coming here," Korea's ambassador to India, Chang Jae Bok, said.

"This a very beautiful experience, and we are happy to be here, and we have lots of confidence in India's presidency," High Commissioner of Singapore to India Simon Wong told reporters.

China, however, had opposed the hosting of the event in Kashmir, stating its position, whilst Egypt – holding the invitee status – also did not participate. The delegates from Saudi Arabia and Turkey included tourism players and tour operators, according to the officials.

The hosting of the event, despite opposition from China and Pakistan, was termed by the administration as an indication of changed Kashmir, which they claimed has evolved towards "peace and prosperity".

"Today's Jammu Kashmir is not a land of hartals or stone pelters. It's a land of peace and prosperity that responsible and responsive administration is trying too hard to bring in the people's lives," J&K's Lt Governor Manoj Sinha said in a statement.

The authorities, however, were slammed by J&K's former chief minister Mehbooba Mufti, who accused the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led Central government of turning Kashmir into Guantanamo, an offshore US detention site known for serious human rights abuse, ahead of the G20 event.

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