G20 Srinagar: Security warning prompts last-minute change of itinerary
Acting on intelligence of possible attacks, authorities cancelled sightseeing trips to Dachigam National Park and Gulmarg ski resort for the G20 working group on tourism
The Jammu and Kashmir administration had to make last-minute changes to the itinerary of the G20 delegates visiting Kashmir for the third meeting of the working group on tourism.
Acting on intelligence inputs warning of possible attacks, the authorities have cancelled scheduled sightseeing visits to Dachigam National Park on the outskirts of Srinagar and the Gulmarg ski resort in north Kashmir.
Given the group's focus on tourism in the area, this is certainly not the most serendipitous circumstance.
About 60 foreign delegates are expected at Srinagar for the meetings between May 22 and 24. According to senior officials speaking to The Hindu, the administration will still be able to give delegates a tour of the Polo View market, which is being touted as Srinagar’s first pedestrian-only bazaar after it was recently given a facelift under the Smart City project.
According to local new reports, the delegates arrived at Srinagar international airport drove straight to Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), for discussion and deliberations on the five key items on the agenda—green tourism, digitalisation, skills, MSMEs (micro, small and medium enterprises) and, rather ironically, destination management.
The highest number of visiting delegates are supposed to be from Singapore.
According to The Hindu, shopowners have been directed to open their establishments at 9 am on all the three days and been warned against "observing any shutdown".
Separatists had apparently called for a shutdown for the duration of the meeting.
Pakistan and China are boycotting the event, while Saudi Arabia and Turkey, to which India recently sent aid in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes, did not register for the event.
New Delhi, however, countered the objection by saying it is free to hold meetings on its own territory.
While the administration has been trying to showcase normalcy in the Valley ever since the abrogation of Article 370, the sudden changes in the itinerary reflect the uncertainty in the security situation and raise questions over the claims that all is well, nay, even better than before.
Owing to the heightened security measures in Srinagar, the city now resembles a garrison with curfew-like restrictions. Moreover, mainstream politicians and even members of minority communities have reportedly been asked to keep a low profile till the event concludes. Local complaints of harassment by overzealous security forces have been amplified by several social media users.
In the past two months, the National Investigations Agency (NIA) and the State Investigation Agency (SIA) have carried out dozens of raids across J&K in connection with terror funding and other militancy-related cases.
It seems almost as though the administration might have shot itself in the foot with this choice of venue.