NEW DELHI: India has tightened security for next week’s meeting of G20 tourism officials in the disputed Jammu and Kashmir region, which is expected to see China and Turkiye skipping the talks, reports said on Friday.

The G20, made up of the world’s largest economies, has a rolling presidency with a different member state in charge of the group’s agenda and priorities each year.

India is steering the group in 2023 and analysts say it is using the G20 meeting in an attempt to normalise what Pakistan describes as a military occupation of the disputed territory and to create an impression of international approval to its Aug 5, 2019 move that violates UNSC resolution on the disputed status of Kashmir.

While Pakistan has already opposed the Srinagar meeting, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin in its Friday press briefing said, “China is firmly opposed to holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory, and will not attend such meetings.”

India tightens security for next week event in occupied Srinagar

By holding a G20 meeting of the working group on tourism on May 22-24, Fernand de Varennes said: “The Government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting and portray an international ‘seal of approval’.”

A UN human rights expert said the meeting would support a “facade of normalcy” while “massive human rights violations” continue in the region.

“The government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalising a G20 meeting and portray an international seal of approval,” said Fernand de Varennes, the special rapporteur on minority issues, in a statement.

Mehbooba Mufti, the region’s former top elected official, said police had detained hundreds of Kashmiris ahead of the meeting. In a party newsletter, she alleged there has been an “unprecedented surge in arrests, raids, surveillance and persecution of our people” ahead of the event.

However, police claimed there was a need to enhance the security measures at vulnerable locations to “avoid any chance of terrorist attack” during the G20 meeting.

In New Delhi’s effort to shape what it calls “Naya Kashmir,” or a “new Kashmir,” the territory’s people and its press have been largely silenced.“

“This is despite what Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, told the UN Human Rights Council a few weeks ago was a worrying human rights situation in the Kashmir region.”

Fernand de Varennes asserted that G20 is “unwittingly” providing a veneer of support to a facade of normalcy at a time when massive human rights violations, illegal and arbitrary arrests, political persecutions, restrictions and even suppression of free media and human rights defenders continue to escalate.“

International human rights obligations and the UN Declaration of Human Rights should still be upheld by organisations such as the G20, he said. “The situation in Jammu and Kashmir should be decried and condemned, not pushed under the rug and ignored with the holding of this meeting,” the statement added.

India, however, slammed the expert’s statement terming them as “baseless” and “unwarranted” in its response shared by India’s mission at the UN on Twitter.

Published in Dawn, May 20th, 2023

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