Srinagar: The delegates who arrived in Srinagar on Monday for the G20 summit would leave for New Delhi on Thursday morning but they would pack with them memories of being hypnotised by the breathtaking beauty of Kashmir and the elaborate hospitality they enjoyed during their three-day stay.
During their stay in Srinagar, besides the third Tourism Working Group meeting sessions and the events on its sidelines, they also enjoyed sightseeing including the Shikara ride on the waters of the famed Dal Lake, the visit to the historic Mughal Garden, the round of golf on the 18-hole Royal Springs Golf Course, and the visit to Polo View High Street Market in the City Centre.
While Srinagar was decked in G20 colours for the summit, the road from Srinagar International Airport to the venue at Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) was also spruced up with the walls painted with murals and paintings.
Even the security bunkers were given a new look.
The J&K administration had been in an overdrive to ensure security and to complete the work undertaken to give the city a facelift in the run up to the event.
All three days passed off peacefully as people attended to their normal chores during the summit.
“They will be leaving Thursday morning from here,” a senior government functionary said. “They will land in New Delhi Thursday afternoon.”
The delegates described Kashmir as a beautiful place and were all praise for the central government and the J&K government.
This was one of biggest events post abrogation of Article 370 with delegates and private tour operators from G20 nations participating in the third Tourism Working Group meeting at Srinagar.
The delegates from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Mexico, Russia, South Africa, United Kingdom, USA, and EU attended the inaugural 3rd Tourism Working Group events.
During the event, measures taken by the government to improve the infrastructure and developmental activities in J&K were also highlighted.
The three-day event saw deliberations on ‘Promoting Incredible India through Film Tourism’ while there were main deliberations on the key objectives on ‘Goa roadmap’ as well.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was also signed between the Ministry of Tourism and FICCI in presence of the Union Tourism Minister.
At the inaugural session, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha addressed the meeting and spoke on tourism and investment coming to J&K, besides strengthening of grass root democracy amid terrorism from across the border.
"For almost 30 years this land of peaceful coexistence of almost all religious sects had to suffer state sponsored terrorism by our neighbouring country. However, Prime Minister Narendra Modi through developmental schemes that empower masses and J&K’s effective administration isolated the terror ecosystem, which thrived with support from across the border. J&K is witnessing a new era that has opened limitless possibilities of growth and peace," the LG said, adding that now even foreign investments were coming to J&K.
“To demonstrate India's resolve, J&K should also benefit from the virtues of democracy like the rest of the states and union territories. Equally pertinent is that tourism can’t grow in isolation. The economics of it is fine. Tourism needs good infrastructure, sound policies, and responsive governance. No less fundamental to me is the fact that only peace and happiness of people can bring warmth in the hospitality we Indians eternally enjoy," he said.
Later in an interaction with national and foreign media, LG Sinha again reiterated that they have achieved large success in almost eliminating the ecosystem of cross border terrorism by the neighbouring country.
“Today’s J&K is not the land of hartals, separatism, or stone pelting but it has become a land of peace and prosperity. Now our youth are focusing on their careers,” he said.
On the first day of the G20 event, Union Minister of State (MoS) Science and Technology Jitendra Singh said that the common man in J&K had moved on. “Whenever there was an event like this or a leader would come from Delhi, you had a hartal call from Islamabad and shops were shut down in Lal Chowk,” he said. "You don’t have that kind of scenario today. That speaks of the transformation that has happened."
Among the delegates, Korean Ambassador, Chang Jaebok, spoke to the media and described Kashmir as a beautiful place and said that he enjoyed Shikara ride in the Dal Lake.
"The Srinagar meeting is the third Tourism Working Group meeting of G20 and then it will go to the final stage in Goa. Hopefully, member states and invitee countries will come up with the consensus for the document. As far as the Korean delegation is concerned, we are very supportive of the G20 presidency of India and wish for its great success," he said.
On Wednesday, the delegates went on sightseeing wrapped up their visit by shopping at the Polo View Market in the heart of Srinagar.