Bilawal Bhutto’s visit to India is an attempt to Quash G-20 Summit in Srinagar | Opinion

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Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto
Image Source : AP Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto

Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari will visit India next month to attend the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting. This high-profile visit is being hailed as a significant move by political analysts and watchers who see it as increasing the likelihood of thawing icy relations between the two neighbours. 

After the 2019 terror attack in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir, by terrorists backed by Pakistan, and the surgical strikes by India on terrorist training sites in Pakistan’s Balakot as a reprisal, relations between India and Pakistan actually came under serious strain. After India declared the withdrawal of Jammu and Kashmir’s special powers and the division of the state into Union territories in August 2019, the ties further deteriorated.

Analysts, however, disregard the fact that Pakistan has been actively attempting to prevent the G-20 summits from taking place in Jammu and Kashmir with the help of its allies. The analysts fail to realise that Pakistan has long been a significant obstacle to the development of long-term peace in Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, Pakistan pressured its G-20 allies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and China, to prevent Srinagar from hosting the meeting. Additionally, Pakistan has been spreading the myth that India is attempting to legitimise its control of Jammu and Kashmir. While the people of Jammu and Kashmir are thrilled that the G-20 meetings would be held there, Pakistan has been naively propagating false information to the rest of the globe.

People of Jammu and Kashmir seek to dispel the negative perceptions that the world has held for decades, particularly since the height of armed militancy in 1990, which turned Srinagar into a city of frequent funerals and expanding graveyards due to the numerous deaths caused by bombs and bullets. Several countries, such as the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, and France, all influential members of the G20, expressed disapproval of Kashmir as a destination and released advisories to their citizens, warning of the hazards of travelling to a perilous location. These concerns were justified, as foreigners were abducted and killed, including individuals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Norway. While ordinary Kashmiris held their own beliefs, they did not support any harm being inflicted upon domestic or foreign visitors. 

However, foreign extremists who did not respect local customs silenced their voices. Today, they recognise that this is the perfect time to undo past wrongs. In 2022, nearly two million tourists visited the Valley, with most staying in Srinagar or passing through, but this only tells one part of the story. While it confirms that Srinagar is safe for visitors, the place still requires international branding that can only be achieved through the G20 meeting. This showcases how the people of Srinagar are eager to host a successful G20 meeting as they believe it will bring economic benefits. These benefits are not limited to an increase in tourism but also include opportunities for investment and the potential to train local youth in professions that can compete on a global scale.

Moreover, this also brings to the fore the desire of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to elevate Srinagar and the Kashmir region to the status of other successful economic hubs like Shanghai and Dubai. When economies expand, it often leads to the breaking down of political barriers. The responsibility to promote the idea that Kashmir is safe without excessive security measures lies not only with the government but also with local stakeholders such as political and business leaders who have already expressed their support for the upcoming event. It is crucial that the event is not portrayed as a response to the designs of the enemy, but rather as a Kashmiri-owned event, delivering its own strategic message to all, including disruptive forces within and beyond the border.

Pakistan needs to wake up from its delusions and understand that the world supports India in bringing about peace and progress in Jammu and Kashmir. Recently, in J&K, India organized an investment conference for Gulf nations in March. Among the CEOs and entrepreneurs in attendance at the event were those from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Holland. The gathering was attended by delegates from over 36 nations. At the Gulf Investment Summit, the Jammu and Kashmir government approved an investment proposal for 27,000 crores. The Gulf nation’s foray into Jammu and Kashmir sends a message to Pakistan, which has been relentless in its propaganda that Muslim nations should assist it in its claim that Kashmir is a problem that has to be resolved.

Pakistan’s economy is currently in a terrible state. Every organ of Pakistan’s state is in mess. In order to redirect its resources towards the advancement of its people, it must learn to mend its ways and its relationships with India. Furthermore, Pakistan must understand that its main issue is the military establishment, which has complete control over all crucial sectors and is always stoking animosity towards India in order to portray the Pakistani army as the bastion against India’s purported plans to engulf Pakistan.

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