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Kashmir and the G20 meeting
  • G20 meeting
    G20 meeting
It is 'only' a tourism meeting, but it holds a very high symbolic value. It is the G20 meeting being held in Srinagar, in the Indian region of Kashmir: sixty delegates from member countries gathered in what used to be called the 'Switzerland of India' and which in recent decades had instead become a hellhole of jihadi groups infiltrated and/or trained by neighboring Pakistan. Pakistan, which is not a member of the G20 and whose participation was therefore not in question, has been tearing its hair out for months over Indian "irresponsibility" in holding an international summit in what, for Islamabad, is still a disputed region. China, which has been wreaking havoc and armed skirmishes on the border for years, which fundamentally does not forgive India for its opposition to the Belt and Road Initiative and which by virtue of the said initiative holds all of Pakistan, has refused to participate in the summit, as have Turkey and Saudi Arabia declaring its firm opposition "To holding any kind of G20 meeting in a disputed region." A region that, on the other hand, is an integral part of India's territory and which Delhi seeks to revive as a prime tourist destination. As of 2019, in fact, the autonomous state of Jammu and Kashmir no longer exists. Instead, there are two Union Territories: Kashmir and Ladakh. The presidential decree ending the existence of the state did not, as has been erroneously stated, abolish the transitional Article 370 of the Indian Constitution that enshrined the autonomy of J&K: instead, it decreed the birth of the two new territories precisely by virtue of the powers granted by that Article 370. The decree also led to the abolition of other frankly indecent transitional articles, such as the prohibition on Kashmiri women marrying outside the state from maintaining any family property. But most importantly, it effectively abolished the status of 'disputed region.' Disputed born in the aftermath of the partition between India and Pakistan, when the autonomous states were given a choice between the two fledgling nations. Maharaja Hari Singh, a Hindu ruler of a Muslim-majority state, had decided on annexation to India. Soon after, Pakistan invaded Kashmir, conquering a large part of it. At the time, at India's request, the UN had issued a resolution decreeing that Kashmiris be given a chance to decide their fate. The resolution was never implemented because Pakistan, after selling a piece of Kashmir to China and creating the Gilgit-Baltisan, refused to withdraw from the occupied territories. According to Islamabad, the disputed region is only the one belonging to India, despite the fact that the resolution clearly stipulates as a precondition for the implementation of the referendum, the withdrawal of Pakistani troops and the obligation, for India, to retain on the territory the troops necessary to maintain law and order. But on Kashmir, Pakistan has practically always based much of its foreign policy. And the Pakistani narrative, thanks to the army's relentless public relations efforts, is the dominant one. Thus, one perceives the region as a lost paradise of Muslim inhabitants. Mistake: Ladakh, which has been asking to be separated from J&K for years, is predominantly Buddhist in religion. Jammu, part of J&K, was Hindu: it was, before the so-called Kashmiri Pandits suffered atrocious ethnic cleansing by their neighbors in the 1980s and were forced to emigrate. The G20 ministers' meeting symbolically sanctions the return of Srinagar and its environs to normal life and the end of the jihadi dictatorship that sought to make it yet another Sharia paradise. Finally, the military around are just the ones you see at every G7 or G20 meeting, for ordinary security reasons and not to keep out Islamic militants. Cinemas and theaters have reopened, stores and house boats for tourists have reopened, houses and highways have been built. And even the Saudis, despite their boycott of the meeting, have already invested a lot of money in the region and still will. Prosperity, and the Indian government has finally realized this, is the best way to take the ground out from under the feet of militants and various guerrillas, who have been proselytizing among the youth only because, literally, there was nothing else to do: no concerts, no music, no movies, no sports, no future or prospects. In and around Srinagar, in reality, the supporters of jihad are a tiny minority. The others, they just want normalcy. And for Kashmir to finally become the 'Switzerland of India' again.
Francesca Marino