Image courtesy: Daily Excelsior
India, a prominent member of the G-20 since its inception and the incoming president, is all set to host the G-20 summit in 2023 . India will hold around 200 meetings in over 55 cities and Union Territories across the country. However, the most conspicuous is the choice of Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir as one of the venues. As per a communique from the MEA a five member committee of bureaucrats under the Principle Secretary of Housing and; Urban Development Dheeraj Gupta, has been constituted to this effort .
Hosting the G-20 summit for the first time, the choice of Jammu and Kashmir as one of the venues is nothing short of a bold diplomatic move from India which has the potential to offer rich dividends. A congregation of leaders from the most consequential of countries in the International order, India should avail this opportunity to give the leaders a positive first hand feel and information of the region post the abrogation of Article 370 . This will set the ball rolling in framing the narrative on India’s terms, away from the negative discourse built by Pakistan. In light of the disputed contentions with Pakistan and China, the ability of India to successfully administer the summit under the prevailing circumstances will cement India’s legitimacy and claim to the region, conveying a message loud and clear to both the nations and to the world.
In light of the disputed contentions with Pakistan and China, the ability of India to successfully administer the summit under the prevailing circumstances will cement India’s legitimacy and claim to the region, conveying a message loud and clear to both the nations and to the world.
The G-20 summit will be the first such International event to happen in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of its special status, and the first such in the past three decades. This offers the important first step towards integrating the Kashmiri population into the Indian mainstream, giving them a sense of normalcy. Since the assigning of the status of Union Territory the law and order situation and tourist footfall in the region has improved to an all time high of 7 lakhs in the first half of 2022, the highest in the last 10 years  . The Indian Government can exert its soft power and leverage the beauty of the Kashmir valley and its improved security situation to project Jammu and Kashmir as a vibrant tourist destination to the international community.
The major challenge for India with regards to holding the G-20 Summit in Jammu and Kashmir is the opposition it has garnered as expected from Pakistan, and its all weather friend, China . Both the nations condemn this move by India, in the guise of unilaterally altering the situation in the region and contentions to its sovereignty.
Though Pakistan is not a member of G-20, it can try to thwart the proceedings by its stronger proxy China. Pakistan has also reportedly approached Turkey and Saudi Arabia to boycott the meeting . If Pakistan, a non G-20 member, manages to get these G-20 members to boycott the meetings in Jammu and Kashmir, it may serve as a loss of face for India. As a first time host to the G-20, India will be in a better position to avoid such circumstances.
Constructively a boycott by Saudi Arabia and other gulf countries seems unlikely. The Overseas Investment Summit that happened in March 2022 in Jammu and Kashmir saw business delegates from UAE, Saudi Arabia and Hong Kong keen on investing in Kashmir . Saudi Arabia is also looking to invest 100 billion US dollars in India . These economic prospects will definitely deter the country from making any rash moves at the behest of Pakistan.
Security is another major challenge for India. As the region will see the congregation of the most important leaders of the world India should ensure the maximum security for all the leaders. Any small untoward incident will be held as a huge trump card by Pakistan and China against India.
Though there are a number of challenges, the spinoffs that India can gain from this effort offsets the rest. The G-20 is a huge opportunity for India to set its agenda for the world, while at the same time gaining a diplomatic victory with regards to its policy in Jammu and Kashmir. A win-win on both fronts.
(Ms. Swetha Ratnasabhapathi is a research officer at C3S. The views expressed are those of the author and does not reflect the views of C3S.)
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