India will, for the first time, assume the presidency of the G- 20 from 1 December this year. The grouping brings together 19 of the world’s leading economies and the EU, together catering for 80 per cent of the global GDP, 75 per cent of global trade and 60 per cent of global population. India, as the president, will host the annual summit in 2023, possibly in October or November. The annual summit is attended by, apart from G-20 members, a number of guest countries invited by the host, in conjunction with other members. Several regional and international organisations participate, adding global flavour to the summit. In preparation for the summit, there are a collection of meetings at different levels. A government spokesperson recently announced that they intend to conduct a few preparatory meetings in Jammu and Kashmir.
This will be the first time an international event would be hosted in the UT since the abrogation of Article 370. In response to the government’s announcement, the UT administration constituted a five-member team to coordinate arrangements. No location has yet been spelt out. It has also been mentioned that the government was encouraged by the large tourist footfall this summer and investment initiatives from multiple global enterprises including the UAE government. The government decision was further strengthened by the nearnormal security scenario. Pakistan was the only nation to jump at the Indian announcement. Its foreign office spokesperson stated, though in futility, “Pakistan completely rejects any such attempt (to hold any preparatory meetings in J and K) by India.” It added, “Contemplating the holding of any G-20 related meeting/event in J and K, is in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged disputed status of the territory.”
As usual, Pakistan harped on fake human rights abuses in the region. Pakistan, in panic, began a diplomatic campaign to request G- 20 nations to reject any Indian proposal for preliminary meetings in J and K. Sadly, Pakistan is aware that its objections carry limited diplomatic weight. Islamabad has run for support to Saudi Arabia, China, Indonesia and Turkey, the only four nations it can approach. It has requested them to cancel attendance in case any event is hosted in J and K. Apart from China, no other nation has responded. The Chinese spokesperson stated on Pakistan’s request, “we call on relevant sides to focus on economic recovery and avoid politicising the relevant issue (J and K).” He added, “whether we attend the meeting, we will look into that.”
Simultaneously, China defended its construction in disputed POK claiming these are economic, a sign of hypocrisy. It is unlikely that any nation would boycott any discussions, despite its location, as long as the host country ensures security. The world is aware that economic and diplomatic ties with India surmount any relationship with a nearbankrupt Pakistan. The Indian decision to hold a global conference in J and K would never have been rushed. It would have been well thought through and possibly discussed with major member states. That India has risen to be the world’s fifth largest economy is not lost on the global elite. It is also possible that the J and K announcement was to gauge global reaction. India’s announcement and Pakistan’s objections sent multiple messages across the globe.
Firstly, in India’s perception, J and K is no longer terrorist infected. It is secure to the extent that India can conduct an international discussion there. It also conveys that Pakistan-backed terrorism has been curtailed. Secondly, Kashmir is Indian territory and Pakistan has no claim on it. This is what irked China. India has thus far ignored Pakistan’s objections. Thirdly, those attending the summit would witness for themselves development within the region, dumping Pakistan’s claims of India ignoring Kashmir. Pakistan’s warning of a possible genocide in Kashmir would be proved a lie. Flying into the valley would provide a glimpse of the Chenab Bridge, an engineering marvel, which would have been inaugurated by then. Fourthly, it would convey that residents of the valley are no longer pro-Pakistan.
For Pakistan this would be a setback to its demand for resolution of Kashmir under UN aegis. Fifthly, it would push the few murmurs which still flow on restoration of article 370 into the dustbin. Finally, any future comments by Pakistan on Kashmir would have little weight as representatives of 20 nations and multiple global forums would have visited it thereby reinforcing India’s stand. For the Union Territory, basic facilities would be overhauled as India would be showcasing a Kashmir vastly different from what has been projected thus far. Income would flow into the region. It would boost future tourism as many attendees could become brand ambassadors of Kashmir. Local handicrafts, cuisine and culture would get global recognition as they would be procured by those attending the event as also be part of a planned cultural extravaganza.
Once the schedule of preliminary meetings, time and location are announced, Pakistan would need to be careful as any major terrorist incident in the valley would enhance global support for Indian cross-border actions as it would be claimed to have been orchestrated and planned in Pakistan to offset a G-20 event. Simultaneously, it would identify Pakistan as a global supporter of terrorism. Kashmir has already emerged into the limelight simply by an announcement. It has also launched a three-way diplomatic battle between India, China and Pakistan. Premature nomination of a committee by the J and K government has set the ball of diplomatic confrontation rolling.
Pakistan, realizing that its J and K claim lies in tatters, has begun approaching its few allies and crying from rooftops. If India backs down and does not conduct a few preliminary discussions in Kashmir, both Pakistan and China will claim victory. It would also strengthen Pakistan’s claim of a dispute. It may also provide fuel to the opposition and Kashmir-based political parties to target the government on its normalcy claim alongside failure of diplomacy. The reverse would happen in case J and K becomes a venue for discussions. A diplomatic battle has commenced which the Indian government must win.