The hosting of G-20 summit in Kashmir is a landmark decision. It will be for the first time that such a high-profile international summit, which going by the past summits of this grouping, will have participation of major economies, including the US, Canada, China, Australia, UK and Germany.
That India, after taking over the presidency of the grouping, will be hosting this summit in Kashmir is in itself a big political and diplomatic statement at the global stage.
Viewing this as a mega international event is important, additional significance comes to it at the place where it is hosted. That comes with the G-20, 2023 summit being hosted in Kashmir.
Look at it objectively, Kashmir is not only a great resort, but a place where hosting of such events accrues something more than the scenic backdrop. Its importance is rooted in its history and heritage, representing unique confluence of culture, languages and ethos.
The road travelled by its people over the centuries is unparalleled. The guests from 19 countries and the European Union will feel it.
Kashmir has its own ethos. It took Prime Minister Narendra Modi to inform the countrymen, how it plays out. This year’s Amarnath pilgrimage starting from Thursday ( June 30 ) is being explained in terms of how many pilgrims will visit the cave shrine nestled in Himalayas in Kashmir and the “perfect arrangements” from health facilities to the unprecedented security cover for the pilgrims – deployment of additional troops and paramilitary forces to secure the yatra and pilgrims.
Prime Minister, in his Mann ki Baat on Sunday captured essence of the pilgrimage, when he said: “The local people of Jammu Kashmir take the responsibility of this Yatra with equal reverence, and cooperate with the pilgrims.” He knew and articulated that how the ethos of the place works, and is the best guardian of the pilgrims of this Hindu pilgrimage which is part of Kashmir’s life over centuries.
There are many instances when the locals have risked their lives to help pilgrims. A re-opening of the 1996 chapter of the pilgrimage when avalanches, unseasonal snowfall waylaid over 240 pilgrims and porters will bring all these facts to light when Kashmiri Muslims not only offered shelter and fed the pilgrims, but also facilitated communication with their families back home in other parts of the country.
Even at the height of the Amarnath land row agitation, the locals had organised community kitchens for the pilgrims in Srinagar and other places in the Valley. This is Kashmir.
A cue must be taken out of PM’s words on the local people of J&K and the tenets they love. It opens an opportunity for an unconventional way of hosting the summit: taking local people on board. The leaders drawn from business community, political arena, academia, and society. This approach will ensure greater success of the summit.
This year’s massive tourist arrival must have prompted the government of India to select Kashmir as the venue for the summit. And tourist arrivals were closely associated to the beauty and climes of Kashmir. If the tourist arrivals are being peddled to make a political statement, the local spirit making this as a success should also be tapped for the summit.
In fact, it is need of the hour to have a group of locals drawn from various walks of life to be made part of the consulting process in the maters of governance till the elections are held. It is not a radical idea but a necessity that should be considered.
The local inputs are needed for better coverage of the plans as also to invoke the spirit of participation. Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha, who himself is a politician of repute, knows how important it is to cater to the local sensitivities and sensibilities. His outreach programmes are good, and these can amplify with greater local inputs.
Two major issues need to be focused on - first, of course, is to showcase that such a summit can be held in Jammu and Kashmir without any fear of dark shadows of the past lurking in the backdrop. Second, it should be made People’s event – officials are making arrangements, more important is the ownership by the people as something is happening for them and the place where they live in.
Practically speaking, it makes no difference whether the summit is held in Mumbai, Delhi or Srinagar, because all these places are part of India. There is no difference on this count, but Delhi knows why hosting this event in Kashmir is more important than other places.
It has both explicit and implicit dimensions. The statement it will make is as important as the event in itself. So, the event and its contours should gel with the statement that the country is seeking to make. The best scene would be when people join the celebrations of their own volition.
There always is an attitude that government knows the best, why consult and take others on board. This approach is strewn with fault lines. Needless to say it is more so in a place like Kashmir, which has its own international profile – because when we indulge in trumpeting record tourist footfall in years , it is a triangular message - for the people of Kashmir that huge economic activity is there amidst them in the real-time basis and they are the biggest beneficiaries, as this could lead to more positive activities enhancing the image of the Valley and its people.
Second message is for the Indian nation that Kashmir is completely ours. More bridges should be constructed with the Vale with more activities. This calls for picking up different drum beat about Kashmir, shunning the narratives that have outlived their political and emotion-stoking utility.
Thirdly, a keenness to show Kashmir as the place where G-20 summit can be held is rich with international connotations. The attempt is to tell the international community that the status of Kashmir as a conflict is disappearing.
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.