Srinagar: Amid unprecedented security, the high-profile third G20 Tourism Working Group Meeting kicked off here on Monday. The three-day G20 meet is the first major international event in Jammu and Kashmir since 2019 when the erstwhile state’s special status was scrapped and it became a Union Territory.
Three G20 members – Turkey and Saudi Arabia – did not register for the meeting, sources said. Some tour representatives from Saudi Arabia and Turkey are, however, in the city to attend the deliberations.
At Srinagar airport, the foreign delegates were welcomed in a traditional way.
Officials said over 70 foreign delegates are in Srinagar for the important meeting. They arrived at Srinagar International Airport from New Delhi via two chartered flights, sources said.
The G20 meeting got underway at Sher-e-Kashmir International Conventional complex on the bank of the picturesque Dal Lake here, with a side event on ‘Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation’ which was aimed at promoting film tourism strategies.
A draft ‘National Strategy on Film Tourism’, which provides a roadmap for leveraging the role of films in promoting tourist destinations, was unveiled.
A panel comprising delegates from Spain, Singapore, Mauritius, Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil and India presented global perspectives on film tourism and highlighted challenges and country-specific enablers adopted for promoting destinations through films, officials said.
Chief Coordinator Harshvardhan Shringla said the G20 meeting has the highest participation of foreign delegates as compared to the two previous editions.
A three-tier security arrangement is in place in Srinagar city to thwart any militant plans to disrupt the meeting. Srinagar has been sanitised for the event and elite forces are keeping an eye on the situation. CCTVs and an anti-drone system are keeping aerial surveillance on the entire city.
The traffic department has restricted vehicular movement along the road leading to SKICC for three days.
However, there is no restriction on the movement of people or public transport in Srinagar, the officials said.
They said shops and business establishments are open across Srinagar.
Union Minister Jitendra Singh said holding of G20 event in Kashmir is an achievement.
“I am sure that the delegates coming from other places will be able to falsify the perception which is created by vested interests or self-styled critics and commentators,” Singh told reporters in Srinagar. “You have seen for yourself, what it is all about.”
The Union Minister said Jammu Kashmir has moved on and the common man walking on the roads of Kashmir wants to be part of the development led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
“Whenever an event like this used to happen, we used to have calls from Islamabad (Pakistan) and shops used to shut in Residency Road and Lal Chowk in Srinagar. Now there is not that kind of scenario and that tells the kind of transformation J&K has seen,” he said.
For the next two days, apart from discussions and deliberations, the delegates will visit Mughal Gardens situated on the banks of Dal Lake and interact with the growers there.
The J&K administration has dropped a tour of delegates to the tourist resort of Gulmarg reportedly for security and logistic reasons.
Meanwhile, Kashmiri separatist group All Parties Hurriyat Conference said that conducting international events in J&K will not change the reality.
“Conducting international summits in J&K to push a certain narrative, will not change the reality of the need to address and resolve the lingering Kashmir conflict peacefully, best through dialogue among stakeholders, if peace and development of J&K is the goal,” the APHC statement said on Sunday.