Controversy engulfs the Indian presidency of a group as a tourism session takes place in a disputed territory.
India's leadership of the G20 group, comprising major nations, faces controversy as China and Saudi Arabia boycott a meeting held in Kashmir. This gathering, the first of its kind since India unilaterally assumed direct control over Kashmir in August 2019, revolves around a tourism working group. Approximately 60 delegates from the majority of G20 countries are in attendance from Monday to Wednesday, necessitating heightened security measures at Srinagar international airport.
In 2019, the Indian government revoked the semi-autonomous status of the disputed Muslim-majority region and divided it into two federal territories, aiming to fully integrate it into India.
In 2019, India implemented a division of the Muslim-majority state of Jammu and Kashmir, creating two federally administered territories: Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. The region of Ladakh is situated along the line of actual control between India and China, making it a disputed frontier area with both countries claiming certain parts of it.
Harsh Vardhan Shringla, the chief coordinator for India's G20 presidency, announced on Sunday that the tourism working group meeting in Srinagar witnessed the highest representation of foreign delegations compared to previous working group meetings.
"Our experience has shown that achieving such a significant turnout of delegates, not only from G20 countries but also from international organizations affiliated with the G20, is a remarkable accomplishment. When it comes to hosting a tourism working group meeting in India, Srinagar becomes the only viable choice. There is simply no alternative."
Alex Ellis, the British high commissioner to India, confirmed that UK representatives would be present at the meeting. During a discussion between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at the G7 summit in Hiroshima, the two leaders also touched upon the advancements in their efforts to negotiate a free trade agreement.
India continues to harbour resentment over what it perceives as a lacklustre response from the UK police to an attack on the Indian high commission in London on March 19 by pro-Khalistan extremists. Consequently, security measures outside the commission have been heightened.
The rotating presidency of the G20 often carries the potential for controversy, and India's presidency was anticipated to be contentious due to its strong trade ties with Russia. The Modi administration is inclined to shield Russia from criticism by Western members of the G20 regarding the situation in Ukraine. Although Kyiv has requested attendance at a summit in September, the Indian government argues that Ukraine's presence is not relevant to the global economic state, which is the primary focus of the G20, or to the selected key agenda items of inclusive growth, debt restructuring, and climate finance.
In the previous G20 summit hosted by Indonesia, Vladimir Putin opted not to attend in person and instead delegated the representation to his experienced Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov.
One stop for all local, national, and global news. Let's Go...