Invitations posted, Srinagar gears up for G-20 tourism meet

Security and hospitality arrangements are being made in the Valley that will play host to meetings of tourism delegates. many countries yet to respond to invitation

March 19, 2023 12:08 am | Updated 08:30 am IST - SRINAGAR

Tourists enjoy shikara ride in the backdrop of snow-capped mountains at the Dal Lake in Srinagar.

Tourists enjoy shikara ride in the backdrop of snow-capped mountains at the Dal Lake in Srinagar. | Photo Credit: Nissar Ahmad

Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, is all set to host a working group meeting of tourism delegates from the G-20 nations in the last week of May. The city is undergoing a major makeover amid a stringent security plan for the high-profile event.

Diplomatic sources said all the G-20 nations have received a formal invitation for the meeting, but most countries said it was too early to comment on their participation. It will be interesting to see how Saudi Arabia and Turkey, both members of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as well as the G-20 grouping, react to the invitation.

After the revocation of the special status of J&K under Article 370, the Centre had facilitated tours of envoys from the European Union in 2019 and 2020, in a bid to project Kashmir as a normal region. This is the first time since then that international delegates will be taken to the Valley.

Last year, Pakistan, which is not a G-20 member, had warned against “contemplating any G-20 related meeting or event in J&K”, saying it would be “in utter disregard of the globally acknowledged disputed status of the territory”.

“Any such controversial proposal from India … would be designed to seek international legitimacy for an illegal and tyrannical occupation continuing for over seven decades…,” the Pakistan government said then. Even China had expressed its reservation.

Official sources said the Union Territory (UT) administration is expecting to host over a 100 non-ministerial members representing the G-20 nations. “It’s a tourism stakeholders’ meeting and will give a boost to J&K’s tourism prospects too,” a senior official said.

In Srinagar, preparations are in their final stages. A security plan has been worked out for the event, with multi-tier security arrangements and traffic diversions, officials said. The main venue, Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC), situated on the banks of the Dal Lake, is getting a ?7.5-crore makeover, which includes upgrading the digital infrastructure and refurbishing the exteriors and interiors.

The UT administration is planning to take delegates, scheduled to stay in Kashmir for four days, on sightseeing trips to Gulmarg, Baramulla, and the Dachigam National Park, known for the Kashmir stag.

An official said welcome boards and signages were being erected in Gulmarg. The road to Gulmarg from Srinagar, the Narbal-Gulmarg stretch, is being given a new look.

Huts in the Dachigam National Park, Srinagar, are also being redone, which could be used to host the delegates. The Trout Fish Farm at Dachigam is being given a facelift, and the Nehru Guest House and other huts in Cheshmashahi are being refurbished. Srinagar’s top hotels, including the Taj Vivanta and the Lalit Grand Palace, will be booked for the delegates.

A road upgrading project is on from the Srinagar airport road to Foreshore Road, where several stretches will be given a new landscaped look and the flyovers painted. The UT administration has set up a special medical task force with advanced life-support mobile ambulances stationed at the venues and en route to excursion sites, officials said.

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