G-20 delegates tour Srinagar city in an attempt to see ‘changed Kashmir situation’

Delegates visited Mughal Gardens, Royal Spring Golf Course and Polo View Market

Updated - May 25, 2023 07:46 am IST

Published - May 24, 2023 09:55 pm IST - SRINAGAR

 A G20 delegate visits the Polo View High Street Market in Srinagar, 24 May 2023.

 A G20 delegate visits the Polo View High Street Market in Srinagar, 24 May 2023. | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

From the famous Mughal Gardens to the popular Royal Spring Golf Course to the all-pedestrian Polo View Market in commercial hub Lal Chowk, the foreign delegates, who attended the third G20 tourism working group meeting in Srinagar, were allowed to have the flavour of the city on Wednesday, in a bid by the authorities to showcase the “changing ground situation” in Kashmir.

Around 60 foreign delegates from 27 countries started a city tour after a yoga session in the morning. They visited the famous Mughal gardens on the Dal Lake, including Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh-constructed Pari Mahal. Several delegates teed off on the lush green fairways of the Royal Spring Golf Course at the foothills of the Zabarwan hills. The delegates were seen taking selfies at these gardens.

“It was a fantastic and memorable visit. I love being in Srinagar. I hope people come and enjoy scenic beauty and the film tourism prosper in Kashmir,” Chang Jae-Bok, South Korean Ambassador to India, said.  

The delegates also toured Lal Chowk where they shopped Kashmir crafts at Polo View market, a glitzy all-pedestrian market opened recently under the Srinagar Smart City Project. No part of Srinagar witnessed any shutdown during the G20 meet, unlike the past trend. However, several local shopkeepers alleged they were “advised by the police against closing their shops during the three-day meet”.

Praise for PM Modi

Meanwhile, a delegate from Mexico praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts and “active role in the G20 summit”. “We attended the meetings and the side events, and also met members of the local chambers here. G20 is a top priority for Mexico,” he said.

The delegates were seen shopping local crafts from the shopkeepers at the Polo View market, which was set up by former Jammu and Kashmir Prime Minister Bakshi Ghulam Muhammad in the 1950s and refurbished by the Lieutenant Governor’s administration this year.

“Shopping our way through the best of J&K’s famed agricultural produce and GI artisanal crafts; even bumped into a merlion. Must visit!” said Simon Wong, High Commissioner of Singapore to India, in a tweet.

Also read: Jammu & Kashmir: From a State with autonomy to two Union Territories

Security tightened

Meanwhile, security was beefed up around the busy Polo View market. Locals alleged they were stopped from heading towards the market and the road was closed for traffic.

The decision by China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Indonesia not to send delegates may have dampened the Centre’s bid to project Kashmir as peaceful with greater degree of normalcy after August 5, 2019, when the autonomous status was ended. However, officials said the highest participation for the Srinagar G20 allowed the other G20 countries to have a firsthand account of the “changing situation”. 

Also read: Explained | All about the G20: History of the forum and India’s presidency 

‘Successful event’

“It has been a successful event. We have been talking about the progress in Kashmir, the improvement in law and order and growing tourism. However, seeing is believing. The delegates saw for themselves and were in the golf course and saw the revamped Dal Lake. It’s a statement. It was our neighbour who was trying to disrupt things in Kashmir,” Apurva Chandra, Secretary, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, told a Delhi-based news channel.

Meanwhile, the delegates from the European Union refused to speak to the media or express their views on the visit. 

Kashmir saw stringent security measures in place ahead of the meeting. Several schools were closed and examinations postponed due to the G20 meeting.

The event was also conspicuous by the absence of leaders from the main regional parties, National Conference (NC) and Peoples Democratic Party. None of the former Chief Ministers or Members of Parliament from Kashmir, who are from the NC, were invited for any of the side events or for the dinner hosted by the L-G administration. The only local politician allowed to chair an event was J&K Apni Party’s Junaid Azam Mattu, Mayor of Srinagar, who hosted an event on Srinagar city and its crafts. 

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