G-20 meeting will expose false narratives on J&K: Jitendra Singh

Locals, attired in colourful Dogri clothes and singing Kashmiri songs, welcomed the delegates and displayed the flavour of local culture

May 22, 2023 12:43 pm | Updated 10:47 pm IST - Srinagar

Foreign delegates being welcomed at the Srinagar Airport, while on the way to the G-20 meeting.

Foreign delegates being welcomed at the Srinagar Airport, while on the way to the G-20 meeting. | Photo Credit: NISSAR AHMAD

Around 122 delegates, including 60 foreigners, arrived in Srinagar for the third G20 tourism working group meeting on Monday, as Union Minister of State Jitendra Singh described the three-day event as “one that will falsify the false narratives emanating from Kashmir”.

Union Tourism Minister G. Kishan Reddy and G20 Sherpa Amitabh Kant received the delegates at the Srinagar airport. Locals, attired in colourful Dogri clothes and singing Kashmiri songs, welcomed the delegates and displayed the flavour of local culture.

A heavy blanket of security, with drones monitoring from the air and elite navy commandos on the Dal lake, was put in place in the Valley, in the wake of militant threats. However, visibility of the security personnel was significantly reduced on the streets. Scores of policemen were roaming in civvies “to keep an eye on anti-national elements”.

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

The Srinagar meeting, according to the officials, has the highest participation registered compared to the first two tourism working group meetings at Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, and Siliguri, West Bengal, earlier. The biggest group of five delegates was from Singapore. No delegates from China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia arrived in Srinagar for the meeting, official sources said.

On the first day, the delegates, especially from South Korea, Spain, Singapore and Mauritius, attended a side meeting on the ‘Film Tourism for Economic Growth and Cultural Preservation’, which is aimed at drafting a national strategy on film tourism and provide a roadmap for harnessing the role of films in promoting tourist destinations, officials said.

The star attraction of the meeting was Ram Charan, an actor and producer from south India who acted in RRR which won an Oscar for its song. “Kashmir has a magical beauty. I visited Kashmir for the first time in 1986. Kashmir is the coolest place to shoot films in India. It is a surreal feeling to visit the Valley,” Mr. Charan said.

Mr. Charan and South Korea’s ambassador to India Jae Bok Chang did an onstage performance on the ‘Naatu Natu’ song from RRR.

Speaking on the occasion, Mr. Singh said enormous avenues of opportunity had been unfolded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi across the country and “this is the message and the perception to be carried from here.”

“The event will falsify all the false narratives created by vested interests or by cynics or self-styled critics. The event is a moment of rejuvenation and reincarnation. This is just returning to the Shammi Kapoor- era, who shot most films here. Kashmir is a cost-effective place with a variety of locations,” Mr. Singh said.

Also Read | Kashmir G-20 meet | Last-minute changes made to itinerary of delegates over security reasons

He said the mindset of people in J&K was “changing”. “Strike calls are being issued from Pakistan and in Srinagar as well but the people don’t pay any heed now,” Mr. Singh said.

Mr. Reddy seconded Mr. Singh and highlighted the government efforts to revive film tourism “not just in J&K but across India”.

“Films have great potential to attract tourists from across the globe. It helps in boosting many other sectors like hospitality, transportation, etc. Film tourism is also about ensuring cultural preservation, promotion of talent and boosting the economy of the region,” Mr. Reddy added.

The delegates will attend the main meeting on tourism on May 23 at the Sher-i-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) on the Dal lake. Stalls have been set up at the venue to display Kashmiri art, craft and culture.

Mr. Reddy asked the participants to share the best practices and stressed the need to promote ways and means of eco-tourism and sustainable tourism during the upcoming meeting.

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

“Without private investments, we cannot become a world tourist destination. We want global and domestic investment. We are also encouraging 100% FDI [foreign direct investment] under the leadership of PM Modi, including in Northeastern States and hill States,” Mr. Reddy said.

Mushtaq Chaya, a known hotelier, termed the G20 event as “a remarkable event that promises to be a turning point for tourism in the region”.

“It’s a great day as people from all over the world have come to Kashmir today. What can be better for tourism than this?” he said.

To a question on some G20 countries not sending their delegates, Mr. Kant said all the countries except China was attending the meeting. “Some countries have been represented by people from the private sector. Some wanted to attend virtually, we wanted physical presence. Some countries are being represented by tour operators,” Mr. Kant said.

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