Delegates Honored with Spectacular Reception
KD NEWS SERVICE
SRINAGAR, May 22: Representatives from all G20 nations, excluding China, arrived in Srinagar on Monday for the third working group gathering on tourism. This highly anticipated event prompted extensive security measures and revitalization efforts in the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The delegates received a traditional Indian reception at Srinagar airport, featuring performances by local artists. The three-day meeting commenced with a supplementary session focused on ‘Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation’.
Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa, informed journalists during a press conference, “All countries, except China, are present here. This meeting has garnered an overwhelming response, with 61 delegates in attendance.”
The G20 event in the Kashmir Valley marks an exciting milestone for the region, which heavily relies on tourism. It also serves as a strong message against terrorism sponsored by Pakistan, according to Union ministers overseeing the event. Stringent security arrangements have been implemented to ensure a safe conclusion to the event. Elite units such as the National Security Guard and Marine commandos are assisting the police and paramilitary forces in securing the venues, including the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC). The Boulevard Road surrounding the area has been designated a no-entry zone for three days. Extensive deployment of security forces has been observed along the delegates’ route and the Airport Road leading to Dalgate.
Kant downplayed the absence of Chinese delegates, stating that travel and tourism are primarily private sector activities, and multiple trade delegations from various countries were participating.
Officials clarified that it is common for not all invitees to attend every meeting, as some have also skipped gatherings held in other parts of the country.
Regarding the travel advisories issued by foreign countries about Jammu and Kashmir, Amitabh Kant highlighted, “Officials from G7 countries are participating, and they wouldn’t have come here if there were any such advisory.”
During the event, Union Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jitendra Singh, expressed that Kashmir has undergone significant changes, as strike calls no longer hold influence. Markets across Kashmir, including the city center, remained open without any restrictions on movement, except for traffic diversions on Boulevard Road.
Singh noted, “Previously, if such an event (G20) took place, strike calls would be made from Islamabad (Pakistan), and shops on Residency Road in Srinagar would close. Now, even if strike calls are made, there are no shutdowns.” He emphasized that the people of Kashmir desire progress and development, having experienced the impact of militancy across generations.
Singh expressed hope that the visiting delegates would become ambassadors for Kashmir, showcasing the positive situation in the Valley.
Responding to a question from a French journalist at a later press conference, Singh likened the security measures for such a high-profile event to those undertaken by countries like France.
Singh regarded hosting the G20 event in Srinagar as a significant achievement. He stated, “I am confident that the delegates coming here will be able to debunk the perceptions created by vested interests. The common man wants progress, development, and wants to dissociate from Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. They have witnessed development throughout the country and opportunities for growth under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They do not want to miss out on these prospects.”
Union Tourism and Culture Minister G Kishan Reddy emphasized the importance of film tourism as a powerful tool for promoting the tourism industry. The government is developing a comprehensive strategy to foster its growth in Jammu and Kashmir. Reddy highlighted the beauty and historical significance of Srinagar, describing it as one of India’s most stunning and oldest cities. He mentioned that the government plans to organize a global tourism investment summit and introduce a national tourism policy soon. Reddy also highlighted the potential for promoting spiritual tourism in Jammu and Kashmir.
Amitabh Kant, India’s G20 Sherpa, hailed Kashmir as an exceptional filming destination. He praised the region’s diverse natural landscapes, including Alpine forests and streams, making it an ideal location for filmmakers. Kant stated, “Kashmir is not just a destination; it offers a unique experience. It has everything to offer everyone, and there is no better destination than Kashmir.” He emphasized Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s belief in the transformative power of tourism as a job creator and expressed the willingness to support filmmakers in bringing romance and glamour to their films.
The event also featured a speech by Ram Charan, the star of the Oscar-winning movie ‘RRR.’ Charan expressed his delight at returning to the Valley and later danced to the award-winning song ‘Naatu Naatu’ with the Korean ambassador to India, Chang Jae-bok.
G20 Chief Coordinator Harsh Vardhan Shringla emphasized that the absence of certain delegations should not be overanalyzed, explaining that 43 countries and organizations had been invited to various meetings under India’s G20 presidency, and not all of them attended each gathering.
“Therefore, it would be a mistake to focus excessively on the non-participation of a single country in our meeting,” he clarified when asked about Saudi Arabia’s decision not to send an official delegation.