• Foreign secretary says friendly countries’ decision to stay away from moot vindicates Islamabad’s position
• Oscar-winning song takes centre-stage in Srinagar as Delhi tries to woo world with ‘soft power’
ISLAMABAD / NEW DELHI: Pakistan on Tuesday ruled out negotiations with New Delhi on Kashmir before the reversal of India’s 2019 move to revoke the occupied territory’s special status, even as a Delhi-hosted G20 meeting in Srinagar continued in an attempt to showcase Indian-held Kashmir as a tourist haven.
The firm declaration came during a briefing given by Foreign Secretary Dr Asad Majeed to the National Assembly’s committee on foreign affairs. At the National Assembly briefing, the foreign secretary said the decision by important countries like Saudi Arabia, China, Turkiye and Indonesia to stay away from the event in Srinagar vindicated Pakistan’s stance and showed that the world recognises the disputed status of the valley.
He made it clear that such summits can in no way legitimise the illegal and unilateral annexation of occupied territories.
Turning to Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s recent visit to India, Dr Majeed said the foreign minister’s participation in the SCO Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Goa had “reaffirmed the relevance” of Shanghai Coperation Organisation (SCO) and the importance that Pakistan attaches to regional peace, security, economic prosperity and connectivity.
Dr Asad Majeed said that although member states do not bring up bilateral relations on SCO platform, the foreign minister made a veiled reference to India’s actions in held Kashmir in an attempt to counter the insinuations made by New Delhi’s delegates against Islamabad at the G20 meeting.
“The foreign minister was also successful in driving home Pakistan’s narrative on terrorism by highlighting the country’s successes in the fight against terrorism and the sacrifices made by the nation and its armed forces,” Dr Majeed said.
Referring to the current political dispensation in India, a Foreign Office official called for collective action to fight “fascism and historical revisionism that lead to violent ultra-nationalism as well as to ensure that racism and xenophobic ideologies have no place in today’s world”. It was highlighted that Pakistan’s case was never presented so forcefully on Indian soil since 2012.
Officials said the Kashmir dispute had legal and moral dimensions and that Pakistan had successfully explained the parallels between Kashmir and Ukraine in terms of applicability of international law.
Referring to a statement by the UN special rapporteur regarding violation of human rights in the occupied valley, the officials maintained that Pakistan had succeeded in altering perceptions of the internationally community regarding the Kashmir issue.
The committee, which met with Mohsin Dawar in the chair, recommended that Pakistan and India reinstate high commissioners in each other’s capital.
The chairman of the committee remarked that parliament has ceded space to unelected officials on policies pertaining to India and Afghanistan, stressing a greater role for representative institutions in foreign policy.
At the outset of the meeting, a member expressed her concern over statements made by a number of United States Congressmen declaring their support to a “political party in Pakistan that has resorted to mob violence”.
She said such support ran contrary to the spirit of democracy where the rule of law, rights of individuals and social justice prevail.
Meanwhile, the G20 meeting of tourism officials made a soft beginning in Srinagar on Tuesday with its Indian hosts reportedly roping in an actor from the award-winning song Natu Natu Natu from the movie RRR to regale guests with the complex footwork needed for the dance sequence.
Apart from actor Ram Charan teaching the guests the steps of the Academy award-winning number, the Indian government is promoting millet as a grain of choice, reports said.
Indian authorities hope the G20 event will prove the 2019 vivisection of Jammu and Kashmir had brought “peace and prosperity” to the region. The delegates will discuss topics such as green tourism and destination management. Side events on eco-tourism and role of films in promoting tourist destinations have also been scheduled.
“We have the making of a unique meeting,” India’s chief coordinator for the G20, Harshvardhan Shringla, told reporters before the meeting began.
He said the event would have the highest representation of foreign delegates in comparison to previous tourism meetings India held in the states of West Bengal and Gujarat earlier this year.
Kashmiris say that for the people of the region, the G20 meeting “would have meant something had there been a normal situation over here”.
“Now, normalcy does not mean normalcy of a graveyard where you have restrictions on media, restrictions on people and people languishing in jails,” Al Jazeera quoted a Kashmiri representative as saying.
“And at the same time you want to project to the world that everything is normal.”
The event is being skipped by China, Saudi Arabia and Turkiye. Egypt, invited as a guest, is also not attending the event.
“China firmly opposes holding any form of G20 meeting in disputed territory and will not attend such meetings,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told reporters last week.
Last week, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues, Fernand de Varennes, said New Delhi was seeking to use the G20 meeting to “portray an international seal of approval” on a situation that “should be decried and condemned”. India rejected those comments.
Residents have chafed under the stepped-up security measures, hundreds have been detained in police stations and thousands, including shopkeepers, have received calls from officials warning them against any “signs of protest or trouble”.
Published in Dawn, May 24th, 2023