From ensuring that 120 Smart City projects are completed on time to beefing up security, the administration in Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory (UT) is working round-the-clock to ensure that the summit in Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir is a huge success and promotes Kashmir as a global tourism destination.
With sustainable and inclusive development initiatives taken by the Modi government, the citizens in Jammu and Kashmir believe that the event (G20 Tourism Working Group meeting) can serve as a power booster for the local economy and a progressive factor for the business community in the region to explore multidimensional growth opportunities.
The tourism industry, which has played a crucial role in the development of UT. However, years of instability have impacted the tourism industry, leading to a decline in the number of visitors. Tourism players in Kashmir believe that the G20 Summit can attract investors and tourists from across the globe.
“Be it a local citizen or anyone else associated with the tourism industry, everyone here in Kashmir is excited for the grand G-20 Summit. This meeting here in Srinagar is set to boost tourism. Furthermore, this meeting will provide our Jammu and Kashmir UT a platform to showcase its beauty to the entire world,” said Umar Bukhari, a local resident of Srinagar.
“Things are changing for the betterment of the people here in J-K. Since the last few years we have seen the LG Manoj Sinha-led administration massively investing in development which is a positive sign,” he added.
Locals apart, tourism players in the Valley also believe that due to the developmental projects, the footfall of tourists has increased in J-K which indirectly is helping the trader community and in return is also boosting the economy.
“It is the first time we are seeing such a tourist season in the Valley. Hordes of tourists from various parts of the country are travelling to the Valley as the ‘Heaven on Earth’ — a sobriquet given to Kashmir — is seeing tangible signs of a return to normalcy,” Mehraj Ahmad, a tourist guide in north Kashmir’s Gulmarg said, adding that the influx of foreign delegates and participants, along with showcasing the tourist destinations, can put UT on a pedestal in terms of tourism.
The Government of India is also making a significant thrust to ensure better infrastructural facilities for the region’s people and entice visitors. This has resulted in a fortuitous surge in tourist activities with better law and order, a promising security system, and maintenance of peace in addition to infrastructural and connectivity improvements.
Stating that G-20 was purely a peoples’ event, Jammu and Kashmir’s Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha on April 15 said the event would provide a great opportunity to push J-K’s handloom, handicraft, Pashmina, and dry fruit to international markets.
“G-20 which is scheduled to be held from May 22 to May 24 in Srinagar will provide an opportunity to push J-K’s handloom, handicraft, Pashmina, dry fruit, saffron and other products to international markets.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase the real potential of the Union Territory to the world. It is not administration’s event but purely a people’s one,” the J-K LG said.
The G20 tourism summit would take place at a time when Kashmir is experiencing a boom in tourism and J-K draws significant investments in the tourism sector, besides medical cities, educational institutions, and other sectors.
Apart from the security situations, streets and flyovers have been painted in the G20 theme colours, while new walkways are being created throughout Srinagar city in preparation for the event.
Delegates from different countries will envision the valley in terms of socio-economic development. The amalgamation of international organizations and Kashmir Valley is a golden opportunity for remote areas to foster limited tourism to large-scale tourism. The meeting will openly discuss the challenges coming in the way of tourism and development.
“We have seen many dark decades due to the uncertainty before 2019. After 2019 we are seeing a new world. Look at Srinagar City, it’s getting a facelift. It’s being developed like metropolitan cities in the country. People here are welcoming the initiatives like hosting of the G20 summit in Srinagar. They are aware that the G20 summit would put Kashmir on the global tourism map and would allow delegates from the most powerful countries in the world to promote J-K at different forums,” said Ashiq Naik, a journalist based in Srinagar.
“People have become equal stakeholders in peace and development. They are now rejecting decades-old ‘Khandani Raaj’. They want to move ahead and prosper. They are positive that there will be a positive impact on the economy due to this summit,” he said.
The UT Government and the Union Government have undertaken significant steps towards inclusion of women-led initiatives for balanced growth.
India has rightly called for the inclusion of gender concerns into the core agenda of the G20 during its Presidency, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi noting that “we have to maintain priority on women-led development even in our G-20 agenda.”
The summit as per the top official is expected to bring much-needed relief to the economy of Jammu and Kashmir, which has suffered a massive setback due to prolonged turmoil in the region.
“Decades of instability and conflict have taken a heavy toll on the economy. The summit will inevitably inject a much-needed boost of cash into the economy, creating jobs and driving growth. It will also provide a platform for policymakers and investors to discuss and plan for the development of essential infrastructure,” the official said.
He said though the summit has to majorly deal with the tourism of Jammu and Kashmir but directly or indirectly the summit will have an impact on the business community too which will trickle down the economy as well.
“This is the first time such an international event is happening in the valley. The youth of J-K are eager to take this opportunity to showcase their talent and skills. They have shown active participation and commitment to ensuring that their voices are heard in the discussions. The G20 Summit in Kashmir marks a shift from the earlier days, where the region was viewed solely through the prism of violence,” the official said.
The third G20 Tourism Working Group meeting will be held at Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Center (SKICC) from May 22 to 24. The first Working Group meeting was held in February at Rann of Kutch in Gujarat. The second meeting was held from April 1 to 3 in Siliguri, West Bengal.
G20 comprises Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkiye, the United Kingdom, the United States, and the European Union. It represents 85 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of international trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population.
Commenting on the significance of the G20 meeting, Javed Shah, editor of the local English daily Good Morning Kashmir, highlighted the potential to promote economic development in the region.
“I believe it will create more job opportunities for Kashmiris. Coming delegates from over 20 countries will send a positive message that Kashmir is a safe place for investment which will create new job opportunities for the valley youth,” he said.
“Unemployment is the biggest issue here in Kashmir. These delegates from 20 countries should work as brand ambassadors for Kashmir. They should work for the promotion of tourism in their respective countries,” Javed Shah said.
Like tourism players, the G20 meeting has brought smiles to artisans’ faces also, they believe and hope that the delegates from 20 countries may visit their handicraft stalls.
“We have heard that they (delegates) will visit our handicraft stalls, and we hope so. With their visit, we can also interact with them, and it may help us to reach our products to the international market,” said Imitiyaz Ahmad, who is associated with craft for the last four decades.
International tourist resort Gulmarg of north Kashmir’s Baramulla is also set to welcome tourism delegates from the G-20 nations in the last week of May 2023.
It is worth mentioning here that the grand event will have a large impact on the history of the Baramulla district and there will be no curbs anywhere while schools, colleges and markets will remain open.
The traffic on all routes will ply normally and to facilitate the foreign delegates, a proper traffic advisory will be issued in advance.
The welcome boards and signages were erected in Gulmarg. The road to Gulmarg from Srinagar, the Narbal-Gulmarg stretch, is being given a new look.
To enhance the aesthetic value of the existing structures, footpaths and medians have been developed, traffic roads are being furnished, hoardings are installed and government buildings and commercial building walls are being painted in the district.