It was a happy ending

G20 in Kashmir, tasks accomplished and more in store
It was a happy ending

The three-day G 20 meet on tourism is over. The delegates have gone home, with a life time experience of being in the midst of the unmatched beauty of Kashmir and its unparalleled hospitality. This must have been a unique tryst with the “paradise on earth” for some of them. Take it from me, that all of them will mention “Kashmir is beautiful and hospitable” in their notes which they will compile for their governments. It is a well-known fact to guests and hosts that the G20 meet on tourism in Srinagar was not all about tourism. There were so many underlined objectives, some of which were spelled out, others were left to the imagination and understanding of the delegates, and the world watching it from a distance through TV channels.

First, the moot about tourism, as hosts have said , was possible only because there is a normalcy in the place. The normalcy was attributed to some of the political decisions that the government of India took roughly four years ago - an unmistakable and straight reference to the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A, and also the bifurcation of the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir into two federally administered union territories of Ladakh and J&K.

Why moot on tourism? The answer is simple - the place is rich with natural beauty. The land of mountains, rivers and lakes enchants visitors like anything. They feel that they are in a different world together. It wasn’t surprising to hear when one of the delegates told ANI that for him it was a discovery. Centuries ago – much before the G20 was born, Kashmir has been an attraction of tourists from far and wide. That made a natural backdrop for the meet. The government had the statics of 18 million tourists who visited J&K last year .In this age of data, this is an impressive figure.

It is here where the term normalcy had its political and diplomatic connotations. The stress on normalcy has been used as a relative term - ( a) that this normalcy has been acquired with a great effort, comparing it with the times when turbulence rocked the Valley. A semblance in life has been brought about after intense anti-militancy operations by security forces and with an assault on its ecosystem. Pakistan was blamed for it. This was the political perspective that the Government wanted the delegates to comprehend to underscore the fact that Kashmir has been a victim of the terror machinery run from across the border.

In diplomatic terms, it was a message that the things have been pulled out of the destruction and put on path of peace by this government. This phrase is not difficult to understand that this moot would not have been possible in the situation with which the Valley was gripped four years ago. This is true. No one could have thought of hosting such an international event in Kashmir ,despite its unmatched and mesmerizing beauty. The beauty in turbulent times loses its appeal as the first thought is to save lives. At a time when locals were worried about their own safety and security , the idea of hosting G20 like event, though at the level of Working Group only, was inconceivable. The government should also pick up certain lessons now when the moot is over – the normalcy should be taken to next level – all embracing peace, which comes to them from within. This event should serve as a motivation for building bridges with the masses – not only through physical connectivity, roads, infrastructure, and buildings, but understanding what they are looking for more than what the government is doing. The people, too, should appreciate that their land has been conferred with a status as host of international event, and if it can do so, it can do many more things. This bridge building exercise must begin from both the ends.

Second , Delhi and its foreign policy mandarins have got a formidable point that the event passed off without any untoward incident, is a testimony to what was being told in the months ahead of G20 moot in Srinagar that situation had improved in Kashmir. There are selfie taking moments of diplomats, their moving under the protective cover of G20 umbrellas in Polo View market and Mughal gardens, which will help South Block to reaffirm the normalcy narrative. The diplomats, too, would not be able to keep these elements out of their notes. Kashmir has seen many foreigners, mind it even during 1990s, visiting its markets and gardens and trekking mountains, but this time it was different – the visitors were diplomats who besides taking part in the deliberations. On tourism, were discerning the political vibes from the ground . They are trained for that.

Third, Pakistan is highlighting China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and among the nine invited countries, Egypt, did not make to Srinagar as success of its narrative on Kashmir being “disputed territory.” There is a point, which should not be swept under carpet by dismissing it as usual rant of Islamabad. Pakistan has been hit by unprecedented internal turmoil and its global credibility is nearing zero despite its highly important geo-strategic location. If its words have still been heard, that should be a reason for thinking afresh how to deal with this turbulent neighbour. Troubled nations have greater potential to cause troubles than the calm and stable ones. China, a close ally and an all-weather friend of Pakistan, obliged Islamabad in staying away from the moot.That is just one of the reasons. China is expanding its influence all over, and is taking on the Western World like anything. There is a contest between the US and China , but then there are also signs that some of the European countries are veering around to Beijing to get the world order restored. India is facing tough situation vis-à-vis China in eastern Ladakh, which was part of J&K state, four years ago. And it is also true that China is having its own interest in Kashmir - the flagship of its ambitious Belt and Road Initiative - China-Pakistan Economic Corridor passes through Gilgit-Baltistan and Pakistan occupied Jammu and Kashmir. It has its strategic goals. India’s historical, legal and constitutional claim on these territories hurts China’s interests. So, it was natural for Beijing to stay away from the meet, but that doesn’t mean it was not watching. There is a need to work harder. It is much beyond that how many delegates from G 20 countries turned up at the meeting. There always should have a picture perfect at the meetings where tourism moot had its own geopolitical messaging.

Kashmir’s beauty and hospitality offered a picture perfect for the event. There are bigger tasks ahead as one success should beckon to scale more milestones both within the Valley and outside of it. It’s happy ending, at the moment. The momentum of happiness needs to be maintained. The tools are there, and the government must pick up these tools to inject greater confidence among the people .

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.

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