Srinagar: For the first time in decades, Kashmir is hosting a first significant three-day global event of a scale that has the participation of large representatives from prosperous G20 countries attending the summit meet and this will be the first time that Jammu and Kashmir is having a major event since the abrogation of Article 370 in 2019.
After months of hectic preparations to spruce up the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, Srinagar on Monday saw the arrival of foreign delegates amid tight security to participate in the third G20 Tourism Working Group meeting from May 22-24. The meeting will deliberate on five key priority areas, namely green tourism, digitalisation, skills, SMEs, and destination management.
It is under India's presidency that the Film Tourism for Economic and Cultural Preservation which is part of the 3rd Tourism Working Group Meeting is being hosted in Srinagar. India assumed the presidency of the G20 grouping on December 1, 2022, and will hold the post for a year. The previous G20 Tourism Working Group meetings were held in Gujarat's Rann of Kutch and West Bengal's Siliguri.
Since the city is playing host to the first working group meeting, the government has left no stone unturned to make it a success as was witnessed on the first day today when the delegates arrived at the Srinagar airport from where they were taken in a cavalcade through a route which saw unprecedented makeover with G20 logos, smart city messages, painted sidewalks and freshly macadamized roads to SKICC, the venue of the meeting in the city on the banks of Dal Lake.
The glossy G20 logos installed at multiple places attract visitors as rows of lampposts have been illuminated in the green, white, and orange of the national flag.
The administration has deployed elite National Security Guard (NSG) and MARCOS commandos around the venue while the special operation group (SOG) of the Jammu and Kashmir Police manned the entire city to provide security cover to prevent any terror incident.
Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha described the G20 summit as a matter of pride for the country and said the government has made all arrangements for its successful conduct in Srinagar.
“G20 is a matter of pride for the country. We have made concerted efforts to ensure the successful conduct of the G20 meeting in Srinagar,” LG Sinha said.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh told a gathering on the sidelines of a G20 meet on Monday.
''If such an event was held earlier, a strike call would be given from Islamabad, and shops on Residency Road (in the city centre of) Srinagar would close. Now there is no hartal even if the call for hartal has come from here or there,'' Singh said.
He expressed hope that the delegates would become Kashmir's ambassadors and highlight the positive situation in the valley.
The Union tourism secretary Arvind Singh said the G20 summit in Kashmir is yet another path-breaking move of Prime Minister Narendra Modi-led government to take Jammu and Kashmir to new heights.
“This is the only working group meeting taking place in Srinagar as part of the G20 effort with excellent response from all the member countries, all the invited countries, and the international organizations, having the highest participation registered compared to the first two Tourism Working Group Meetings at Rann of Kutch and Siliguri," he said.
G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant said the meeting in Kashmir will have a positive impact and will spread peace, prosperity, and the creation of jobs. “Tourism industry will grow, high impact tourists will come and will act as a multiplier,” Kant said.
According to G20 Chief Coordinator Harshvardhan Shringla, the three-day meeting will see the highest participation of foreign delegates as compared to the two previous meetings.
Superstar Ram Charan is also in Srinagar to attend the event which is set to boost tourism as it will provide a platform for the region to showcase its beauty to the world.
The J&K administration is planning to take delegates, scheduled to stay in Kashmir for four days, on sightseeing trips to Gulmarg, Baramulla, and the Dachigam National Park, known for the Kashmir stag.
Both national and local tourism stakeholders feel elated at the G20 working group meeting being hosted in Srinagar.
“This G20 meeting in Kashmir brings in a feeling of a sense of inclusiveness. With this event, a message will go out that Kashmir is a safe destination for shooting films,” said Abhijeet Patil, Chairman of Raja Rani Travels.
A hotelier based in Srinagar Mushtaq Chaya observed that it was the greatest day as people from all over the world come to Kashmir today. “What can be better for tourism than this?” he said.
Amidst the local enthusiasm of tourism stakeholders and those associated with the travel trade came a surprise social media post by an Arab influencer, Amjad Taha, who took to Twitter with his video and described Kashmir as a "paradise on Earth".
"This is not Switzerland or Austria; this is India, and this is Kashmir where the G20 will take place. It's called the 'paradise on Earth,' a place that has preserved the Earth and can be the solution for climate change. In Kashmir, we see Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians all living in peace and enjoying their diverse land while contributing to world innovation and development for the future," Amjad Taha tweeted on Saturday.
Earlier, popular Punjabi singer Yo Yo Honey Singh expressed excitement over Kashmir gearing up to host the G20 meeting for the first time.
In a video message posted on Twitter, Honey Singh informed his fans about the upcoming Summit.
"I got to know that G20 Summit is happening in Kashmir this time and is happening in other places as well of India... Goa and some other places. I am very much excited. I am right now in America. I am performing for my promo tour Honey 3.0 and I am gonna bring all my fans from America, India, and all over and request them to go and support G20 summit Kashmir."
Meanwhile, China has decided to boycott the meeting in Srinagar and Turkey also missed the international event.
The G20 or Group of 20 is an intergovernmental forum of the world’s major developed and developing economies. It comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the UK, the US, and the European Union (EU).