Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Sunday kickstarted his 3-day long visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) where he will also deliver an address to the people residing in the region, reported Dawn. Bilawal’s visit to PoK comes at a time when India decks up to host the third G20 Tourism Working Group Meeting’ in Jammu and Kashmir from Monday (May 22) amid high security. Under India’s presidency, the third G20 Tourism Working Group meeting is scheduled to take place in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir from May 22-24.
Time and again Pakistan has shown strong discontent at New Delhi’s intention to convene the G20 Tourism Working Group conference in Kashmir. Rejecting Pakistan’s criticism, India had said G20 meetings are being organized in the entire country and hence it is “natural” to hold meetings in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh as “these are inalienable parts of India.” Pakistan recently slammed India’s decision to host a G20 meeting in Srinagar and parts of Kashmir as an “irresponsible move”. “G20 meetings are being organized in entire India, in all cities and parts of India.
It is therefore natural to hold the meetings in Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh because these are inalienable parts of India,” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Official Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said during the MEA Weekly Media Briefing. “That is what I would like to say. The meetings are being held in all parts of India, that is our natural response,” the MEA official spokesperson said. India announced Srinagar as the venue for the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting scheduled to take place from May 22 to 24. The relations between India and Pakistan have been precarious for many years with regard to cross-border terrorism emanating from Pakistan. Moreover, New Delhi has consistently raised the issue of Pakistan’s continued support to cross-border terrorism and terrorist infiltration.
It has been said that the people of Jammu and Kashmir have borne the brunt of this terrorism campaign for decades and continue to do so. Pakistan Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari recently visited India for Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Goa in May. At the meeting, he made remarks on not getting “caught up in weaponising terrorism for diplomatic point scoring.” Following that, he was lambasted by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who said that it means “they think terrorism is legitimate” and that India is politically, and diplomatically exposing Pakistan before the world as it is a victim of cross-border terrorism.
Jaishankar, who addressed a press conference after the meeting of SCO Foreign Ministers, said India is defending itself against terrorism. “The weaponization. It’s a very interesting statement because it unconsciously reveals a mindset. What does weaponizing something mean? It means that the activity is legitimate and somebody is weaponizing it. So you say you are weaponizing trade, you are weaponizing technology. Somebody says you are weaponizing terrorism, which means they think terrorism is legitimate, and that we should not weaponize it.
That is normal,” said Jaishankar. However, Bilawal termed Jaishankar’s comments about him being a perpetrator of terrorism as a “joke”, the Dawn reported. “This country knows me, have I once even in my political history accidentally sat down with a terrorist?,” Dawn quoted Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as saying. “They don’t see that even in our country we (PPP) perform a role in the first ranks against appeasing terrorists,” he added. As of now, the G20 Working group meeting in Jammu and Kashmir will focus on five key priority areas: Green Tourism, Digitalization, Skills, MSMEs and Destination Management. The meeting aims to strengthen economic growth, preserve cultural heritage and promote sustainable development of the region. The event will witness the participation of G20 member countries, invited countries, international organizations, and industry stakeholders. Harsh Vardhan Shringla, Chief Coordinator G20 said, that it is the vision of Prime Minister Narendra Modi that the message of India’s G20 Presidency is taken to the grassroot level through active Jan Bhagidari.
Shringla appreciated the efforts of the Government to sensitise the people about the goals and purpose of G20 through multiple public activities. The tourism industry has played a crucial role in the development of the Union Territory. However, years of instability have impacted the tourism industry, leading to a decline in the number of visitors. Incidentally, China, which is a close ally of Pakistan on Friday said that it will not attend the next week’s G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Jammu and Kashmir, stating that it is “firmly” opposed to holding any such meetings in the “disputed territory.” “China firmly opposes holding any form of G20 meetings on disputed territory.
We will not attend such meetings,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a regular press conference when asked about several reports doing the rounds that China will boycott G20 meetings planned in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. India assumed the presidency of the G20 grouping on December 1, 2022, and will hold the post for a year. The G20 summit in Jammu and Kashmir promises to initiate a tidal wave of transformative outcomes, setting the region on a new trajectory towards stability, economic growth, and social development.