The G20 arrangements, Kashmir’s scenic beauty, and the warmth of her people were a hit among the delegations. The crown jewel of India mesmerized visitors with its historical charm amalgamated with the “smart city” conveniences. The iconic Mughal Gardens, the Dal Lake, and Polo View Market were the highlight of their itinerary. The delegation was impressed seeing how seamlessly the heritage and culture of the Valley flow into the present-day lifestyle … writes Dr Sakariya Kareem
Empty vessels make the most noise. Sitting in Delhi this noise comes from the immediate West. Since Morgan Stanley’s admittedly said “India is on track to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027”, it has become de riguer for the spiteful to speak in urgent tones anything that might gather some media attention against India, whether or not it makes sense. And while they blacken reams of paper with their wordy diagnosis on India, the latter is soaring high aiming at $400 billion annual economic output by the next year.
Last week after much fanfare the G20 group’s third Tourism Promotion Meeting was conducted in Srinagar, Jammu and Kashmir Union Territory. It was an exhilarating affair for the residents, more for the tourism industry which has been a huge driver of the region’s economy since the beginning. Last year J&K hosted more than 16.2 million tourists worldwide, and that number after a few hundred thousand yearly turnout, is saying something. People have renewed faith in the government machinery post-2019 abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A, as it has sparked a new dawn of prosperity and development in the region.
The bubbling excitement among the masses was palpable. For the first time in a long time, Kashmir was again in the limelight, except for all the good reasons. The Valley was unrecognizable to foreign delegations who had only ever heard of unrest in this part of the world. The event marked the international re-introduction of Kashmir.
After receiving the baton of G20’s yearly chairmanship from Indonesia in December 2022, India has gone full throttle to showcase its best, and naturally so. Nearly 10 million people in the Kashmir Valley are dependent upon the tourism industry. The J&K administration with the support from the Center has altered the geography of the UT, helping them decades ahead in progress.
Tracking Kashmir’s development and listening to its internationally echoing praises, while waiting for their economic and social predicament in the past few months must have been like watching a catastrophe in slow motion for Pakistan. It tried to foment some trouble by calling on international bodies and global leaders to stop India from conducting the meeting in Srinagar. Their Foreign Minister Bhutto-Zardari said that by holding the event “India cannot silence the voice of (apparently oppressed) Kashmiri people”.
For a country spinning on a roulette, jumping from an economic crisis to a political one, then a social one, all in one week, while committing human rights violations and internationally receiving reprimanding notices for the same, making such a bold statement about India is very audacious. Just last week UHNRC High Commissioner said that the rule of law in Pakistan is under serious threat. The violence following May 9 underscores the urgency with which Pakistan should first qualify as a country before spitting venom in envy.
The G20 arrangements, Kashmir’s scenic beauty, and the warmth of her people were a hit among the delegations. The crown jewel of India mesmerized visitors with its historical charm amalgamated with the “smart city” conveniences. The iconic Mughal Gardens, the Dal Lake, and Polo View Market were the highlight of their itinerary. The delegation was impressed seeing how seamlessly the heritage and culture of the Valley flow into the present-day lifestyle. Though Kashmir is modernized to suit the contemporary needs of people, the values and traditions continue to be the nucleus of the society, the thread that binds everything together.
Indulging their senses in the serene ambiance, the delegations agreed upon some conclusions and agreements to elevate Kashmir to a city of global status. It was unanimously agreed that Kashmir must be popularized as an international film shooting destination. Following the footsteps of the Gulf which invested $2.5 billion, participant countries discussed the possibilities of investments in various areas such as healthcare, skill training centers, higher education institutions, and so on.
Increasing the volume of exports and how, was another major topic of discussion. After the working group witnessed live demonstrations of artwork – from handwoven carpets to walnut wood carvings and the plush Pashmina shawls among others – they were spellbound. Department of Handloom and Handicrafts successfully cemented its place in the guests’ hearts. Through GI-tagging Kashmiri handicrafts, Saffron, and other unique Kashmir products have achieved global recognition. At the beginning of 2022, 40,000 Euros worth of carpets were exported to Germany alone!
On the occasion, Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha said that J&K will soon be among the top 50 destinations in the world. Violence, insurgencies, and Pak-imported terrorism are a thing of the past. People are high on life, blossoming in an ambitious environment that supports a growth-oriented outlook.
While Pakistan can criticize India nonstop over Kashmir, the truth is aptly stated by Michael Rubin, a senior fellow with The American Enterprise Institute (AEI), “While Kashmiris under Pakistani control remain hobbled by a moribund economy and suppressed by Jamaat-e-Islami extremism, Kashmiris in India have security, taste freedom, and thrive.”
The new India is associated with robust expansion and economic prosperity. She is at the forefront of all global decisions and holds veto power that can change the course of humanity. According to McKinsey, “It’s not India’s decade, it’s India’s century”; holding her hand, Kashmir will reach the pinnacle of greatness.