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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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#G20Kashmir: Houseboats, adorned with #G20 logo, seen behind ranks of armed #police posted around #Kashmir’s Dal Lake. #Kasmiri: “if they are so confident, then they should have opened the gates of the [G-20 center] for locals to be part of the event"
SRINAGAR, India — The famous houseboats, bedecked with lights and adorned with the G-20 logo, were just visible behind the ranks of uniformed police stationed around Kashmir’s stunning Dal Lake. Every 20 feet along the waterfront was a poster advertising picturesque Kashmiri sites — with a camouflage clad soldier standing behind.
The signs for the Group of 20 intergovernmental forum that India is hosting this year proclaims the country as “The Mother of Democracy,” but this meeting for tourism took place in a heavily militarized region that has not seen elections for its legislature in almost a decade.
Having the delegates from the world’s 20 wealthiest nations meet to discuss tourism amid the majestic Himalayan beauty of India’s Kashmir showcases what India says is the return of peace and prosperity to the region. But the conversations touting a new normalcy came amid a heavy security presence and were in sharp contrast to the voices just outside the barricaded conferences premises.
“What will come from this development? We need to have peace in our hearts first,” said a shopkeeper — who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely about the government — in the heart of Srinagar’s old city, an area that has often witnessed violence. He said police threatened nearby shops to stay open to give a semblance of normalcy in the territory.
As he spoke, a dozen members of the federal paramilitary police, tailed by their massive windowless armored vehicle, stopped to search a group of young boys. “The delegation should come here and see this and talk to us,” the shopkeeper said. “They should talk about the Kashmir issue. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
The decision to put one of the dozens of G-20 meetings this year in Kashmir has not passed without controversy. China has boycotted the event, it has been condemned by neighboring Pakistan and the U.N. special rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, issued a blistering statement saying the Indian government “is seeking to normalize what some have described as a military occupation.”
Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority entity, has long been the country’s pride and joy with its magnificent mountain vistas. It was once a must-have shooting location for movies and a coveted honeymoon destination even while it was stuck in a continuous tug-of-war between Pakistan and India that provoked several wars.
After disputed elections in 1987, simmering dissatisfaction erupted into a violent insurgency and government crackdown that darkened Kashmir’s reputation. After coming to power, Hindu nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched “Operation All Out” — a 2017 offensive against the militants that killed hundreds and dramatically worsened relations with Pakistan.
After Modi won a second term in 2019, his government revoked the state’s special autonomous status negotiated after independence and made it a territory directly governed by New Delhi. Any dissent was stifled with harsh restrictions, including the longest internet shutdown in a democracy and locking up top political leaders, journalists and activists.
G20 in Kashmir
“The fact that we are holding it in Srinagar is itself an achievement of sorts,” said Jitendra Singh, a government minister who is also a parliament member from the region, in a news conference. “This is an opportunity to see with your own eyes what it is all about. The common man has moved on.”
Kashmir saw a record number of tourists last year, almost 2.6 million, while another 13,000 foreign tourists have come just this year, mostly from Southeast Asia, to see the region’s famous mountains and tulips. The government hopes that new golf courses, train lines and efforts to remove the travel advisories on Kashmir will open bring more Europeans and others.
Arun Kumar Mehta, the territory’s chief secretary, said roughly $250 million of the proposed $8 billion worth of investment projects have been completed, with money flowing from the Middle East in particular for shopping complexes.
“2022 was a historic year of development,” he said. “Life was normal for the first time in many, many years. I see such a yearning in the common people to get back to normal. Peace comes about when people have a stake in peace. And it’s very apparent that people have a stake in peace.” The territory’s lieutenant governor, Manoj Sinha, also said that the “ecosystem of terror sponsored by our neighbor has been almost dismantled.”
Since the crackdown, militant recruitment has plummeted, according to a senior security official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
But a 28-year-old who works at a shopping center in Srinagar noted that, “if they are so confident, then they should have opened the gates of the [G-20 center] for locals to be part of the event and not hold it under such a tight security cover. Only the government is celebrating.” He spoke on the condition of anonymity to talk freely.
In particular, the government has touted a new high-profile cinema multiplex in the city, marking the return of movie theaters to the region after they were targeted by militants in the 1990s and all shut down.
Khushboo Farooq, a 21-year-old who works there, said she finally found a place where she feels truly safe after it opened last year. “We need the entertainment in our lives, after what we have gone through.”
“The reality is Kashmir has already changed, and we haven’t woken up to this,” said Vikas Dhar, the theater’s owner, who hoped that the G-20 event would move Kashmir’s narrative beyond conflict. He described his theater as “an answer to the demand that people are raising.”
While people would like to go to the cinema, those types of development are not “the basic crux of what they really want,” countered Anuradha Bhasin, an editor of Kashmir Times who said that the government’s roughly half a dozen cases against her newspaper had crippled it. “They are beautifying certain areas, but the people are missing from the story. Then you have big jamborees like G-20, it kind of smacks of the indifference of the government towards the people.”
Bhasin said that while apparent signs of violence may be decreasing, without a free and vocal media it is unclear whether the militancy is growing or not.
Mehbooba Mufti, a former chief minister who was detained after the region’s semiautonomous status was revoked, said this apparent development and prosperity comes with a heavy hand.
“They are trying to use tourism as a sign of normalcy,” she said, adding that roughly 100 young men were detained before the G-20 meeting in “preventive arrests.”
“If everything is fine, why this suppression? Maybe today, it is calm. But the amount of might that is used to keep things that way, can’t be used like that all the time. And when God forbid, it bursts, it can be very big. You know Kashmir, it can happen anytime,” she said.
Interview: India’s exaggerated value and the danger of S Jaishankar’s ‘new world order’ posturing
“the US already has other military partners like Japan and Australia, whereas India doesn’t really have anyone else that can help balance against China. Our value to the US is being partly exaggerated”
Rajesh Rajagopalan, author and professor of International Politics at JNU, says we are living in a bipolar age and it is dangerous for India to think otherwise.
18 hours ago
“I think the economics of the world, the politics of the world, and the demographic of the world is making the world more multipolar.”
“The world is moving towards greater multi-polarity through steady and continuous re-balancing.”
“The Indo-Pacific is at the heart of the multipolarity and rebalancing that characterises contemporary changes.”
“The United States is moving towards greater realism both about itself and the world. It is adjusting to multipolarity and rebalancing and re-examining the balance between its domestic revival and commitments abroad.”
Those are all comments by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar over the last few years. Indeed, Jaishankar is a big votary of the concept of multipolarity – the idea that the world is not dominated by just one power (the United States), or two (the US and China, just as it was the US and the United Soviet Socialist Republic during the Cold War), but is instead now seeing a global order with a number of powers that are somewhat equally matched in terms of economic and military capacity and influence.
Jaishankar sometimes speaks of the need for establishing a multipolar world. And sometimes his comments seems to suggest the world is already multipolar or will soon be there.
Not everyone agrees. Stephen G Brooks and William C Wohlforth, in a Foreign Affairs article in April , argued that multipolarity is a “myth”.
Brooks and Wolworth argue instead for “partial unipolarity”, in part because Chinese military power remains “regional”.
Rajesh Rajagopalan, professor of International Politics at Jawaharlal Nehru University and author of Second Strike: Arguments about Nuclear War in South Asia, thinks the answer is clearer: We are living in a bipolar age. And it is dangerous for India to think otherwise.
I spoke to Rajagopalan about multipolarity vs bipolarity, why he thinks that Jaishankar describing the world as multipolar is problematic even if it is a purely rhetorical tactic, and what he made of Ashley Tellis’ much discussed piece from earlier this month – with the controversial headline, “America’s Bad Bet on India” – which argues that the US should not expect India to side with it in a military confrontation with China, unless its own security is directly threatened.
To start off, how do you read Jaishankar and India’s articulation of a multipolar world, either as an aspiration or as a reality?
I’ll start with the reality: Of course, it is not [a multipolar world].
There are different ways of defining polarity. Academics by and large look at it as either unipolar world or a transition to a bipolar word. Some argue that the world may be bipolar in the Indo-Pacific region because of China’s power there, but not bipolar in a global systemic sense. Since this is a peaceful period – not marked by war – it’s very hard to identify the boundary between unipolar and bipolar. But my sense as an analyst is that the world is already bipolar, because the way polarity is measured is purely in terms of material capacities, and on this, clearly China has the wealth and the intention.