- Apr 9, 2023
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Under a Rs 3,000 crore smart city project, Srinagar city is being revamped as major roads, pathways, cycle tracks, and drainage systems are being reconstructed to bring it on par with other metropolitan cities in India
For the first time since the union government led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) revoked the special status of J&K and bifurcated the erstwhile state into two union territories on August 5, 2019, the scenic region is due to host a significant international event between May 22-24, which will be attended by a number of dignitaries from across the world.
The G-20 has emerged as a premier inter-governmental forum, comprising both developed and developing countries.
According to the Ministry of External Affairs, the G20 nations collectively account for 85 percent of global GDP, 75 percent of international trade, and two-thirds of the world’s population — making it a premier forum for economic cooperation.
India assumed the G20 Presidency on the 1st of December, 2022, from Indonesia, and will convene the G20 leaders’ summit for the first time this year.
The impending G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Kashmir is anticipated to boost tourism of the region, produce economic gains, provide jobs for locals, and establish the Valley as a reliable investment location.
For now, Kashmir is buzzing with activities related to the G20. For example, visitors at Srinagar’s Sheikh-ul Alam International Airport are greeted by rows of lampposts illuminated in the green, white, and orange of the Indian national flag, and billboards featuring India's Group of 20 lotus logo.
Footpaths in Srinagar city have been renovated and roadside walls, streets, and flyovers have been painted in the colours of the Indian flag, which are also the G20 theme colours.
Under a Rs 3,000 crore smart city project, Srinagar city is being revamped as major roads, pathways, cycle tracks, and drainage systems are being reconstructed to bring it on par with other metropolitan cities in India.
Regarding the G20 preparations, Athar Aamir Khan, Commissioner, Srinagar Municipal Corporation, and CEO, Srinagar Smart City, told Moneycontrol that major road upgradation, including blacktopping works, is taking place in vital areas, including Airport road, TRC, Gupkar road, Boulevard road, the Jhelum river banks, and Maulana Azad road.
“We have just come out of the winter and now are fighting with the rain to complete the preparations for G20. We have prioritised the upgradation of these roads, along with main flyovers, before the major event. The illumination and sanitation in the city is also being done on priority.”
Similarly, in order to spruce up the famous Dal Lake, the Lake Conservation and Management Authority has cleaned chosen regions, while dredging machines have been pressed into service in two shifts to remove the weeds and sewage.
Though the lake is cleaned up through the year, due to the upcoming G20 conference there is a focus on cleaning up select locations.
Even the historic clock tower, locally known as ghanta ghar, in the city centre of Lal Chowk, is being beautified.
“Srinagar is a tourist city, and we want to project Srinagar as an important destination of tourism in the world. For example, we are doing up Maulana Azad road in such a way that it should look like a world-class road. Pathways and cycling tracks have been created, parking slots will be available, and the drainage system is going to be underground,” Khan said.
In November 2021, UNESCO designated Srinagar as a creative city of craft and folk arts, making it one of 49 cities worldwide to join the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.
The main deliberations during the three-day event will be held at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC), on the banks of Dal Lake.
The proposed itinerary of foreign delegates includes a shikara ride on Dal Lake, and a visit to the ski resort of Gulmarg and Dachigam National Park, known for the hangul (the Kashmiri stag).
Sheikh Aashiq, a Srinagar-based exporter and former President of the Kashmir Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), told Moneycontrol that the event was an opportunity to showcase Kashmir’s industry, heritage, and culture on a global platform.
“G20 is a huge event, and when it is held at a place like Kashmir it will definitely focus world attention on our tourism industry, our handicrafts, and our heritage. This can boost our tourism and handicrafts industries, and bring increased investment to the region,” Ashiq added.
Dr Syed Abid Rasheed Shah, Secretary, J&K Tourism and Culture, said that the G20 event in J&K has the potential to promote the union territory as a global tourism destination.
“Since the majority of our GDP comes from tourism, we have to project, promote, and manage it in the right way so that it can go to the next level. The government is working round-the-clock to ensure that the G20 promotes Kashmir as a global tourism destination,” said Shah while speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the model G20 summit, which was organised by the Tourism department at SKICC, Srinagar. Model G20 is where school students essay the roles of delegates of guest countries and international organisations.
Apart from developmental works, the G20 also offers a chance for the government of India to crystallise the benefits it claims resulted from scrapping article 370 and 35A of the constitution.
J&K BJP President Ravinder Raina told Moneycontrol that dignitaries from 20 nations including China, France, Germany, United Kingdom, United States, and the European Union will visit the length and breadth of the valley.
“While meeting people, leaders, and activists in Kashmir, the world will understand Kashmir more closely. The Modi government, through the historical G20 summit, has given a chance to leaders of the international community to directly talk to the people of Kashmir. The world will know how Kashmir suffered during the last 30 years, and how Pakistan has used cross-border terrorism to cause a bloodbath in the region.”
Pakistan has already voiced its “strong indignation” at India’s plans of convening G20 meetings in J&K, stating that such a move was “self-serving” on New Delhi’s part.
Islamabad has also reached out to close allies China, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia to boycott the meeting.
Undaunted by the criticism, India has decided to go ahead with the G20 in Kashmir, but elaborate security measures have been taken to counter the threat of militant attacks, and threats posed by the use of drones.
At a a meeting last week, Vijay Kumar, Additional Director General of Police (ADGP), Kashmir, had stressed the importance of dominating the river and the lake in order to ensure the security of G20.
“The Marine Commandos (MARCOS) will be put in place to provide a strong security cover for the water bodies around the summit venues, mainly around SKICC. NSG commandos will be used for counter-fidayeen attacks, along with the special operations group (SOG). Specialised NSG teams for counter-drone operations will be deployed at all venues,” Kumar added.
Visitors at Srinagar’s Sheikh-ul Alam International Airport are greeted by rows of lampposts illuminated in the green, white, and orange of the Indian flag, and colourful streets, even as the MARCOS, NSG, and SOG are deployed in strength to guard against threats from the land, air, and water.