Srinagar being spruced up for G20 meeting

New Delhi: Kashmir is popularly called paradise on earth. The phrase was originally written by the thirteenth-century Sufi poet Amir Khasru, but doubts persist about whether he had Kashmir in his mind when he composed them.

 There is no doubt, however, that Nature has endowed Kashmir with implausible beauty. Resplendent Chinar trees turn the entire valley yellow and red when autumn arrives, silver lakes turn golden at dawn and crystal blue rivers springing from the icy mountains flow with majesty; the landscape of Kashmir does indeed inspire the visitors to imagine that they have landed in paradise.

It is no wonder that the government of India decided to host one of the G-20 events in Srinagar, the scenic capital of Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting, scheduled for May, 2023, has prompted the administration to initiate several beautification drives since January.

Major roads and drainage systems were repaired and directions were issued for the beautification of parks and city walls. The city is undergoing a grand makeover under the Smart City project. The current developmental projects are linked to the hosting of the grand summit.

These include repair and building of roads, creation of new parking slots, organised wiring, creation of new cycling tracks and widening of walkways. The deadlines of various works have been advanced to have them completed ahead of a G20 meeting in May.

The G20 consists of Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkiye, the United Kingdom, the US and the European Union. India has invited Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and the UAE as guest countries this year.

The G20 forum represents around 85% of global GDP, and over 75% of trade, since counts Saudi Arab, Germany, Canada & France as members. It also covers two-thirds of the world’s population, with being India, China, Indonesia and US as members. It also includes four countries with large Muslim populations such as Indonesia, India, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. The notable invitees among international organizations are the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, World Health Organization, World

Trade Organization, ILO, FSB, OECD, ASEAN Chair, ISA etc. Quite simply, G-20 represents the wealthiest, largest and most influential countries, organizations and leaders in the world. In addition, by virtue of its privilege as the host, India has invited Bangladesh, Egypt, Mauritius, Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Singapore, Spain and UAE as special guest countries.

Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, or one earth, one family, one future, the overall theme of the G20 gathering this year, affirms the value of life with its associated environmental sustainability, leading to a cleaner, greener and bluer future at the individual, national and global level. G-20 meets consist of interaction of various engagement groups such as Business20, Labour20, Parliment20, Science20, SAI20, Think20, Urban20, and the Startup20 engagement group constituted the first time under present G20 of India’s Presidency to recognise the role of startups in driving innovation. A new working group on Disaster Risk Reduction has been set up to encourage collaboration, multi-disciplinary research and the exchange of best practices.

The University of Kashmir is one of the fifteen institutions in India chosen to host the Y20 and C-20 events. A two-day C-20 Working Group conclave on ‘Gender Equality and Disability’ (GED) started at the University of Kashmir (KU) on February 13, which is also celebrated as the National Women’s Day to mark the birthday of Smt. Sarojini Naidu. The working group on Gender Equality and Disability is entrusted with studying the needs and fresh challenges of the most vulnerable and ensuring them a voice.

The event brought multiple stakeholders, including national and international members of C20 Working Group on GED. It was also the GED’s first hybrid meeting, combining in-person and online consultations with 90 participants from eight countries—Argentina, Australia, Bangladesh, Brazil, Canada, India, Italy, and the United States. The objective of the meet was to frame actionable policies on gender equality for discussion by the G20 summit meeting in September. The two-day event included panel discussions on legal reform, public platform and school curricula, and gender sensitisation and youth mentorship.

Various delegates presented their on-the-ground experiences to identify both policy gaps and the necessary recommendations to ensure that gender equality interventions are informed based on sound data and standards of practice and led by by local community stakeholders. Delegates from local, Kashmir-based civil society organisations (CSOs) included Dr. Nazir Ahmad Khan of the Cancer Society, Shaiq Nazir of the Help Foundation, Rahi Riaz Ahmed of Ahsan Foundation, Dr. Bashir Lone and Ms. Insha Bashir of Voluntary Medicare Society, and Javaid Tak and Feroze Ahmad of Humanity Welfare Organization Helpline.

The conclave also featured several Udaaharans (best practices) being implemented in the effort to address gender inequality through conversations with CSO representatives, involving consultations on two sub-themes – women’s safety and security and how to engage men and boys to address gender inequality. The Policy Dialogue culminated in a number of recommendations focusing on legal reforms, gender sensitisation, and public platforms.

Soon afterwards, Kashmir University is gearing up to a Y-20 event. Youth20 events address youth affairs in general and the future of youth in particular. The topic chosen by KU for the Y20 event to be held in May 2023 is “Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction: Making Sustainability a Way of Life”. The Y20 Mission looks at Climate change and disaster risk reduction as two of the most urgent concerns facing humanity today.

According to the Vice Chancellor of the University, 25 delegates from G20 Countries, 25 national-level delegates, 12 national speakers and 08 international speakers are expected at the event.

The Vice Chancellor envisaged the event as an opportunity for the University of Kashmir to position itself as a centre of excellence at the national and international level. Their faculty, officers, non-teaching staff, research scholars and students in the main campus and satellite campuses in Kupwara, Baramulla and Anantnag actively spread the country’s G20 message at the community level.

These events are being held in harmony with Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s vision calling upon the country to present its learning, experiences, and models as possible templates for others, particularly the developing world, during India’s G-20 Presidency.

The broader themes for the Y20 Summit include Industry 4.0, Innovation and 21st Century Skills, Start-up India Policy, National Education Policy-2020, India’s Digital Revolution, Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction, National Action Plan on Climate Change, Peace Building and Reconciliation, Youth in Democracy and Governance, along with Health, Wellbeing and Sports.

The G-20 meetings in J-K, which brings increased attention and investment to the region, has the potential to encourage the growth of tourism and handicrafts in Kashmir. The G20 has also recognized the need of improving the living standards of the people of Kashmir. The organization has supported initiatives to provide access to education, healthcare, and other basic services in the region.

The G-20 meeting in Srinagar provides an opportunity to the government to showcase the development which Jammu and Kashmir witnessed after the abrogation of Article 370 three years ago. As a matter of fact, the government has encouraged a number of investment friendly activities in Kashmir since then, and some of them have been bearing fruit too.

During a UAE-India Investor Summit took place in Srinagar city on 19th March. Manoj Sinha, the Lieutenant Governor of J and K, highlighted the impressive progress with structural reforms in recent years, and outlined the scope for private and foreign investments in various sectors in JK. The Dubai based Emaar group has already committed to making an investment of 500 crores in the Union Territory. Earlier, in January, 2022, the government of Jammu and Kashmir signed MoUs with several UAEbased companies during the Dubai Exp2020 in Dubai.

The LG said that the constructive discussion held on various sectors such as agriculture and allied sectors, hospitality, education, tourism and other industry sectors would lead to exploration of ground level investment opportunities, leading to a strengthening of India’s long-term partnership with UAE and other the Gulf countries.

With the exports of apples, saffron, walnuts, vegetables and dry fruits from Jammu and Kashmir to the Gulf picking up since the decline in the Covid-19 pandemic, there are talks about private sector investment from the UAE to set up a food processing and logistics hub in the union territory.

In the same vein, the third G20 tourism working group meeting will be held in the Kashmir Valley between May 22 and 24. The foreign delegates will also be making a sightseeing tour to the ski resort of Gulmarg. They will be taken to major tourist places in Srinagar for sightseeing on May 24.

The itinerary includes a Shikara ride on the Dal Lake and a visit to Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary. The event will involve delegates from G-20 countries, guest countries and several international organisations. A major event will also be held to highlight film tourism on the sidelines of the meet.

The objective of the film tourism event is to showcase film shoot offerings to the visiting delegates with single-window clearance and other facilities. The UT administration has been majorly promoting film tourism over the last few years.

The first working group meeting, which was at Rann of Kutch in Gujarat in February, highlighted rural tourism and archaeological tourism. The second meet, at Siliguri, West Bengal, from April 1 to 3, explored adventure tourism. The fourth meeting of the tourism track group, a ministerial event, will is scheduled for Goa in June.

 At the conclusion of the ministerial meeting in Goa, an official ‘Goa Roadmap’ will be issued, which will present a shared vision for the G20 tourism working group, with guidance on policies, strategies and practices in five key areas. The placement of the four tourism working group meets in four different corners of the country was inspired by an urge to showcase the geographical expanse and diversity of the country.

The J and K authorities have been making foolproof security arrangements for the high-profile event. Special Forces and anti-drone technology are being brought in from New Delhi. In early April, top officials from the Jammu and Kashmir administration were part of a high-level review meeting convened by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) in New Delhi. It was the first of the two review meetings and was chaired by Home Secretary A K Bhalla. The second meeting was led by Home Minister Amit Shah. The review meetings considered security arrangements for the G20 Working Group onTour ism meeting in Srinagar, the annual pilgrimage of Shri Amarnath Ji shrine and

tourist season.

Meanwhile, the iconic Lal Chowk of Srinagar, the beating heart of the city’s business centre, has been undergoing a facelift. An April 14 report suggested that the administration has set a 10-day deadline to complete the renovation work.

The administration has decided to illuminate heritage buildings, electric poles, and other important junctions in tricolour. Nearly 21 heritage buildings have been identified illumination in tricolor in the run-up to G20.Officials are working overtime to ensure preparedness, especially at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Convention Centre (SKICC) on the banks of Dal lake, where the delegates will hold important meetings.

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