Next week holds immense significance for Kashmir as Srinagar prepares to host a G20 working group on tourism. With numerous foreign delegates expected to attend, this event presents a remarkable opportunity for Kashmir to showcase its potential and shine on the global stage.
Diplomatic Tensions Surround Kashmir’s G20 Meeting:
However, as is often the case, there are individuals who raise concerns. One such figure is Dr. Ferdinandi Varan, a professor from South Africa and an independent UN expert on minority issues. Dr. Varan has expressed reservations about Kashmir hosting the G20 meetings, arguing that it lends support to India’s alleged denial of democratic and human rights, which he considers brutal and repressive.
Interestingly, Dr. Varan’s sentiments align with those expressed by Pakistan. Yet, given that this is a G20 event and not a larger assembly like the G50 or G100, Pakistan lacks the direct means to boycott the meeting. Instead, they have resorted to venting their discontent through press conferences and social media, following a similar approach to the UN expert.
It’s crucial to understand that India, as the rotating president of the G20, has the authority to hold meetings wherever it deems appropriate, including Kashmir. The decision lies within India’s internal jurisdiction, unrelated to the opinions of the UN, the US, or any other country. It is akin to hosting a meeting in any other Indian state, such as Kerala, Maharashtra, Sikkim, or Uttar Pradesh.
India has criticized the comments made by the UN expert, deeming them baseless and unwarranted, while also accusing him of misusing his office. Considering the language employed in his statements, it is not difficult to see why such accusations have been made.
Contrary to the narrative of a military occupation or rampant human rights violations, the reality in Kashmir is different. In 2020 alone, nearly 20 million tourists visited Kashmir, drawn by its natural beauty and cultural richness. These numbers challenge the notion that people flock to witness a military crackdown. Such narratives appear to be part of a broader strategy aimed at curbing India’s influence.
The recent release of the US State Department’s International Religious Freedoms report, which once again places blame on India, adds another layer to the controversy. This report alleges religious minority violations throughout the year. In response, India’s Ministry of External Affairs dismissed the report as biased and motivated commentary by certain US officials. One cannot help but notice the predictable nature of these reports, with this year’s chapter on India closely resembling the previous year’s.
The timing of such reports is noteworthy, considering Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s upcoming state visit to the US. As the US claims that this report is non-binding and authored by an independent panel, the release by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken on the State Department’s website raises doubts about its independence.
Perhaps these reports serve as a means for the US to criticize India indirectly, considering their reliance on Indian support in the Indo-Pacific region. By grouping India with nations like Myanmar, China, Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan, the report implies that India belongs on a blacklist. However, when we scrutinize the company in that blacklist—a military state, a communist regime, a theocratic state, a rogue nuclear state, and a failed puppet state—it begs the question of whether India truly deserves such association.
Reports of this nature often prioritize shaping narratives over presenting objective truths. Another example is the recent Press Freedom Index, which ranked India 161 out of 180, with Afghanistan and Somalia surpassing India. One cannot help but recall the chilling video of armed Taliban fighters forcing an anchor to praise them on live television. Is that what press freedom truly looks like?
In conclusion, Kashmir’s upcoming G20 tourism meeting provides a rare opportunity for the region to showcase its potential on an international platform. Despite the criticism from figures like Dr. Ferdinandi Varan and the controversial reports released by the US, it is essential to approach these issues with discernment. Rather than succumbing to biased narratives, a comprehensive understanding of the complexities involved is crucial to forming an accurate perception.