By Suhail Yousuf Shah;
So The G20 summit is being planned in Jammu &Kashmir this year. Conduct of a G20 meeting would imply requirement of world class infrastructure, development of a support system to cater to global diplomats, support staff, media, members of civil society and prominent personalities. This will entail development of venues, IT
infrastructure, transport corridors, accommodation, etc.
All this implies a massive influx of investment
For both infrastructure development and support system including trained human capital in both public and private sectors. This will not only generate employment and contribute to the local economy but also keep the population meaningfully occupied. It will provide jobs to youth, help in national integration and drive youth away from drugs or terrorism, not to mention the utility of this infrastructure for more such events in future.
Known for its pristine natural beauty, Kashmir has been on the bucket list of innumerable domestic as well as foreign tourists. A huge potential exists to further augment tourism revenue, considering that the tourism industry accounts for almost 7% of GDP and employs approximately 1/7th of population of Kashmir Valley (Observer, 2022)) and all other allied industries. What seemed to be lacking, was a vital thrust from the government to revive Kashmir on the International Travel Destination Map. The atmosphere of fear and terror some real and some projected by adversaries, only
added to the perception of Kashmir as an avoidable destination.
No new initiative is free from dangers of sabotage and failure, a word of caution would therefore always be beneficial. We will have to guard against stressed infrastructure, pollution, controversies /delay in execution of events, procedural / legal hassles and opportunistic Internal politics.
As an active G20 member, India has strived for an inclusive, open and stable global world-order. In recent times, India has projected itself as a ‘Global Leader’ by taking up issues with global appeal and resonance, like sustainable development, digital economy, COVID vaccines for all, reforms in multilateral Institutions etc. All of these can be projected in Jammu & Kashmir in general and Kashmir Valley in particular. Successful conduct of G20 meetings in Jammu & Kashmir would not only showcase normalcy but also further integrate Jammu & Kashmir to the National ambition of a safe and prosperous India. The opportunities that this event opens up for Jammu and Kashmir is comparable to what Beijing Olympics 2008 did to China.
Since 2011, the G20 Summit is held annually under a rotating and regionally balanced Presidency. The presidency organises G20 meetings, prepares agendas and calls invitees. To maintain continuity in affairs, the Presidency is assisted by a Troika consisting of the Presidency before and after the current incumbent.
India will be the G20 President w.e.f. 01 Dec 2022 for one year, taking over from Indonesia. It will be part of the Troika till 30 Nov 2024. The decision of the Central Government to hold some meetings of the forthcoming G 20 Summit likely to be held in January 2023, in Jammu & Kashmir is an opportunity that needs to be grabbed by both hands.
The Group of 20 or G20 in short is an intergovernmental forum comprising 19 countries and the European Union. Founded on 26 Sep 1999, it is an informal grouping without a charter, secretariat or administrative structures. Together, the G20 represents 2/3rd of world’s population, about 85% of global GDP, 80% of global investments and over 75% of global trade. In short, it is a group of top 20 highest grossing economies on the planet including both developed and developing economies. While its decisions are not legally binding, G20 voluntary commitments carry considerable political weight.
The G20 in its current avatar works towards resolving issues pertaining to sustainable development, energy, climate change, water crisis, migration, anti-corruption and other relevant concurrent issues. As it’s outreach activities, G20 also invites non-G20 member countries, international and regional organisations (e.g. the UN, the WTO, the ASEAN, the African Union etc) and prominent civil society groups.
The month of January is of peaking winter and Kashmir Valley is generally adorned by a blankets of snow. It is also a time when tourism activities are at lower ebb as compared to the hectic summer months. A summit of this magnitude is likely to see a revival of ‘Winter Tourism’ activities
in the Kashmir Valley including winter sports activities. It would be an ideal opportunity to internationally showcase the beauty of Kashmir in winters which is subtly different from that in summer.
It would thus be prudent for all stakeholders involved, to plan for creating a warm atmosphere, both figuratively and literally, for the summit delegates. Consequently it means massive employment opportunities for locals, initially for upgradation of existing facilities and later for running them.
The very idea of holding an international level event, especially in the backdrop of
abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A of the Constitution projects a sense of confidence in the people of Kashmir. It gives them the opportunity to project their unique medieval traditions, ethos and culture to the world which are quintessentially Indian. It has the potential for the locals to project their Indian identity shunning the outdated negative narratives and their utility in stoking negative political and emotion stoking ability.
While the details of events and venues are yet to be decided, it would be safe to presume that at least some of the meetings scheduled to be held in Jammu & Kashmir will happen in Kashmir Valley. It is this segment of the G 20 Summit which we will be looking at from the opportunities it is likely to present to Kashmir Valley. On the surface, the decision itself is a huge politico-diplomatic statement to the world community, aimed at showcasing that such a summit can be held in Kashmir Valley without any fear of dark shadows of the past or a belligerent neighbour. However, dig a little deeper and one can see the immense significance this event has for Jammu & Kashmir in general and Kashmir Valley in particular.