China won’t attend Srinagar G-20 meet; Turkey, Saudi and Egypt too unlikely

None of the Embassies in Delhi of the non-participating countries replied to requests for comments about whether their non-registration thus far indicated a “boycott” for political reasons

May 19, 2023 09:00 pm | Updated May 20, 2023 11:54 am IST - New Delhi/Srinagar 

Workers push a handcart in Srinagar on May 16, 2023 as they work on a newly renovated road ahead of the G20 tourism working group meeting.

Workers push a handcart in Srinagar on May 16, 2023 as they work on a newly renovated road ahead of the G20 tourism working group meeting. | Photo Credit: AP

With just days to go for the G-20 Working Group meet on Tourism set to be held in Srinagar, China confirmed that it won’t attend the event, even as the Indian government announced that Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt have yet to confirm their attendance, indicating they too are likely to skip the meeting. 

“A total of 60 international delegates have registered so far for the Third working group meeting to be held from May 22-24,” Union Tourism Secretary Arvind Singh said on May 19, briefing the media in Delhi. “A total of 17 G-20 member countries have confirmed their participation till now. Those who have still not registered are China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. The number of invited countries is 9 out of which only Egypt has not registered so far, Mr. Singh added. 

However, China later said it won’t participate. “China is firmly opposed to holding any kind of G-20 meetings in disputed territory, and will not attend such meetings,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said.

Also read: G-20 meet | Several schools closed, mainstream politicians, minorities put on alert in Kashmir

None of the Embassies in Delhi of the non-participating countries replied to requests for comments about whether their non-registration thus far indicated a “boycott” for political reasons. While China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are G-20 members, Egypt is a special invitee this year, and their decision not to attend what the government is promoting as the “first international event” in Jammu Kashmir since the reorganisation of the former State and amendment of Article 370 in August 2019, appear to have diplomatic undertones. 

China had earlier skipped G-20 meetings in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh, which it considers “disputed territory” and its decision not to send a delegation to Srinagar is understood to be in line with that. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are all members of the Organisation for Islamic Cooperation (OIC), that had been very critical of India’s changes in Jammu and Kashmir. However, other OIC members like Bangladesh, Indonesia, Oman, and UAE have confirmed their participation in the event, the Tourism secretary confirmed. While Indonesia is a key “Troika” member, along with India and Brazil, it is sending a single diplomat from the Embassy in Delhi, sources said. 

The MEA did not respond on Friday to requests for a comment on the non-participation by key G-20 members as well as an invitee. On Tuesday, India’s mission in Geneva had strongly rejected a statement by UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues Fernand de Varennes, who had criticised the event being held in Srinagar as an effort to “normalise” alleged human rights violations and the “denial of democratic and other rights” that he said were “ongoing”. 

“As G-20 President, it’s India’s prerogative to host its meetings in any part of the country,” the Indian mission replied, adding that it was “aghast” at the Special Rapporteur’s “misuse of his position” and attempt to “politicise the issue” 

In Srinagar, officials said preparations for the high-profile event are nearly complete, with all roads leading from Srinagar airport to the Sher I Kashmir Convention Centre that will be the venue of the conference, freshly painted in bright colours. The delegates will be driven into the city under elaborate multi-tier security arrangements and will stay at a number of high-end hotels along the Dal Lake, the official said, adding that police personnel on duty have been asked “to extend proper protocol to the delegates from different nationalities.” 

The Tourism Ministry is also organising events dedicated to encourage “film tourism” amongst international and domestic crews. Industry stakeholders will also provide suggestions on encouraging filmmakers to shoot in various locations across the country, the officials said and the government would unveil a draft ‘National Strategy on Film Tourism’ at the meeting. In a bid to promote local products, souvenirs given to delegates would include papier mache Boxes, saffron from Pampore, kawa cups and brass spoon and walnuts from Anantnag, Shopian and Kupwara. Mr. Singh said that an earlier plan to take delegates to Gulmarg during the three-day meeting was shelved due to a large increase in the number of delegates.

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