By Sahil Mahajan
G 20 meeting in Srinagar later this month is destined to be a transformational moment for Jammu and Kashmir . This is a display of confidence of Delhi in the people of the Valley that they would take part in hosting the event beyond their known traditional hospitality which they reserve for all the visitors .This is to showcase them having embraced the new realities which have lit their path, out of the dark shadows of the past.
The theme of tourism for the meeting in Srinagar from May 22-24 perfectly gels with the place – one of the most beautiful tourist destinations in the world, which competes with and surpasses some of the most beautiful places in Europe . The lakes, rivers, snowcapped mountains and vast meadows and gardens stretching as far as the eyes can see . This place exists on this planet, and it is where the message of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, “ One earth, one family “ will resonate for rest of the world more eloquently than elsewhere. There is no deliberate attempt to separate optics and realities of Kashmir from the rest of the country .
Looking at things through a crystal clear prism , it will dawn on the visitors that Srinagar sits on the country’s map like any other place – all cities wherever G20 events are being held are rich with their own culture and uniqueness . This is how it should be looked at. But Srinagar is different in its heritage and culture , though it’s as much part of overarching Indian ethos which the country is displaying through its G 20 presidency .
Then what is transformational in it? There are several realities that have come to stay in Jammu and Kashmir in the past three-four years . The hard truth is that hosting of any international or for that matter any prestigious national event in Kashmir would have been unthinkable a few years ago, J&K was synonymous with running conflict, where bombs and bullets spoke louder than anything else . Way back in 1983 when an international cricket match was held in Srinagar, that was a moment of national embarrassment , as the spectators had other ideas which they demonstrated with a loud chorus , revealing it to the visiting cricket team what they stood for . This was a noise made by some sections of spectators , but the message that they delivered continues to haunt the country.
Today, Kashmir is yearning to host the international cricketing events, and also global competitions. This is the transformation which Kashmir has undergone in the past three years . The people have been taken on board not just by the soft words and appeals but also the way their lives have been dignified, ridding them of the slush and mud. They have been provided with 24×7 smooth connectivity, saving them from the elements. They have access to all basic amenities without resorting to sit-ins.
The year 2022 redefined Kashmir’s tourism potential. It traveled several notches higher than number of the tourists who enriched the atmosphere and economy of the Valley. The G 20 meeting in Srinagar in May 2023 was logical next step, which not only opens vistas of more tourists, international and domestic, but also makes Kashmir look different. The images of violence and terrorism have been relegated to the forgettable black chapter of the past. It’s a new era .
When the delegates will come from 20 richest economies of the world to Kashmir with their ideas on how to promote tourism , and the setting would be that of the Valley , it in itself would be a moment that would redefine the image of Kashmir . To put it more succinctly , it’s an opportunity for the world to see how much the valley has changed and what are its aspirations . These aspirations are painted with powerful expressions in the graffiti on Srinagar’s walls , with the balloon of G 20 is swinging in air , and the place is dotted with the national trocolour , with the men working round the clock to make the city smart . Smart city project is transforming Srinagar, and G 20 meet is all set to write a new script for Kashmir – the beautiful valley is peaceful , comfortable with new realities , and looks forward to greater achievements , in lockstep with the idea of India.