Pakistan Condemns India’s G20 Tourism Conference in Disputed Kashmir

Pakistan Condemns India's G20 Tourism Conference in Disputed Kashmir

Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has accused India of “abusing” its presidency of the G20 by hosting a tourism conference in the portion of Kashmir it controls. This move marks the first diplomatic event in the territory since Pakistan suspended trade and diplomatic ties with India in 2019, following New Delhi’s imposition of direct rule and a strict security lockdown in the Muslim-majority region. 

In an interview with AFP in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, Bhutto Zardari expressed his lack of surprise at India’s actions, labeling it as a continuation of India’s arrogance on the international stage. He criticized India for using its G20 presidency to further its “colonial agenda” and dismissed their attempt to silence the voice of the Kashmiri people. 

The Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir has been embroiled in a long-standing conflict, with an insurgency seeking independence or a merger with Pakistan. The ongoing conflict has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers, and Kashmiri rebels over the years. Pakistan controls another part of Kashmir and argues that hosting the tourism meeting in the disputed territory violates international law, UN Security Council resolutions, and bilateral agreements. 

Bhutto Zardari highlighted the predicament faced by G20 participants, composed of the European Union and the world’s top 19 economies, stating that they have been put in an awkward spot. He called for countries that condemn violations of international law in Europe to demonstrate the same outrage when such violations occur in Kashmir, drawing a parallel with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. China, which claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh as part of Tibet, has supported Pakistan in condemning the tourism conference in Kashmir. 

Read More: Pakistan’s FM Bilawal Bhutto Zardari Asserts G20 Meet in Srinagar Won’t Silence Kashmiri Voices

Notable absences at the conference include government representation from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, while some Western countries have scaled back their presence. India aims to showcase “normalcy and peace” in the region by inviting the international community to a well-guarded venue on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar. However, residents have faced heightened security measures and restrictions, including detentions and warnings against protests. 

Bhutto Zardari dismissed India’s portrayal of normalcy, asserting that one of the most militarized zones in the world cannot be seen as normal. The long-standing tensions between India and Pakistan have resulted in three wars since the partition of the Indian subcontinent in 1947. Following India’s constitutional changes in 2019, the Kashmiri rebellion has been met with suppression, curtailment of civil liberties, and a crackdown on dissent by Indian authorities. 

The Pakistani foreign minister emphasized that there would be no possibility of improved relations between the two countries unless India revokes the change in the status of Indian-controlled Kashmir. Bhutto Zardari believes that addressing this issue is crucial for peace in South Asia and is a prerequisite for meaningful dialogue on shared challenges such as militancy and climate change. 

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has increasingly used religious polarization to mobilize the Hindu majority since coming to power in 2014, ordered the crackdown in Indian-administered Kashmir. As Modi prepares to seek a third term in power at the upcoming elections, Bhutto Zardari stressed that the people of Pakistan remain patient, but meaningful progress depends on resolving the Kashmir issue. 

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