India has effectively exploited the G 20 to project a positive image of the country. Meetings in different parts of the country has sold the idea of a vibrant and colourful India, its architectural wonders as also a nation which has adopted digitization in every aspect of life. Indian culture, traditions, dresses and cuisine are now gaining global recognition. The image of India as existing and the reality observed by delegates are vastly different. India has also utilized these events to counter claims on its territory by adversarial nations.
In end March, China skipped the ‘Research, innovation initiative, gathering’ in Itanagar, Arunachal. It was the only nation which was missing. No other nation backed out in support of China, implying that Beijing has few global allies. There was no official statement on the Chinese protesting the Indian choice of the venue, aware it would be countered or ignored. Chinese absence had no impact on the event.
It was in response to the Itanagar gathering that China issued a third list of Tibetan names for places in Arunachal. It had to do so to reinstate it claims on Arunachal being a part of Southern Tibet, a fact which was debunked by a large majority of invited nations attending. To regain global space, China also objected to the visit of the Indian Home Minister, Amit Shah, to the state. With the US criticizing the Chinese statement and designating Arunachal as a part of India as also the Indian government objecting to Beijing’s announcement, China achieved its aim of keeping the subject alive. India and the US were compelled to object and this played right into Chinese hands.
Beijing’s statement on the visit of the Home Minister was rather bizarre and only certified the Indian stand. It mentioned, ‘The Indian official’s visit violates China’s territorial sovereignty, and is not conducive to the peace and tranquillity of the border situation.’ India considers Chinese objections and comments as routine and largely ignores them. China has criticized every visit of the Indian PM or the Dalai Lama to Arunachal. It even criticized the visit by the last US ambassador to Arunachal.
The release of the calendar of events leading up to the final G 20 summit in September has led to objections flowing from Pakistan, likely to be backed by China. The Pakistan foreign office mentioned, ‘India’s irresponsible move is the latest in a series of self-serving measures to perpetuate its illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir in sheer disregard of the UN Security Council resolutions and in violation of the principles of the UN Charter and international law.’
The statement added, ‘For a country that has a grandiose vision about itself and its place in the world, India has once more demonstrated that it is unable to act as a responsible member of the international community.’Islamabad’s statement followed the announcement of the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting in Srinagar on May 22-24 andthe Youth 20 meeting in Ladakh. The tourism meet in Srinagar is aimed at propagatingKashmir as the global destination for tourists, boosting its economy.
For India to conduct these meetings in J and K and Ladakh further cements its claims. It also reinforces the fact that the region is peaceful and its population aligned with India. All concerns which arose post India abrogating article 370 will be nullified. Simultaneously will be claims of human rights violations being falsely projected by Pakistan. The showcasing of local culture, dresses, architecture, landscape and cuisine will place these regions firmly on the global tourism map.
Pakistan will approach Turkey, Saudi Arabia and China and request them to convey their concerns on the Indian action. It cannot approach Indonesia, another Muslim majority nation, as being the ex-president of G 20, it would have been in the loop. Nations do not have much choice except to skip the meeting as China did for Arunachal, which will have no impact on the conduct of the event. Only Turkey can be expected to join China in boycotting the meet. For other nations, mainly western, it will be an opportunity to observe the progress in the region as also obtain first-hand information on prevailing peace and tranquillity.
Pakistan is also expected to request some of its sponsored Members of Parliament in the US, EU and UK, to raise the issue and push their governments to boycott the event, which is unlikely to succeed. The UK is desperate for a Free Trade Agreement and with the recent souring of relations after the attack on the Indian High Commission, will be unwilling to support the demand of Pak sponsored members of parliament. The US and EU will attend as will other major powers including Japan and Russia. At the end of the day, Pakistan will be left protesting alone.
For Pakistan these meetings come at a time when there is immense political instability. Imran Khan will accuse the government of failing to prevent India from hosting the event in Srinagar, ignoring that even he as the PM, could have done nothing. The only option for Pak is to employ its terrorist groups to increase attacks on Indian soil, highlighting the disputed status of the region. However, aware of Indian capabilities and its own depleting economy, Rawalpindi will have to ensure that attacks remain within Indian levels of tolerance. In all probability, the Indian administration would have already warned Pakistan of the consequences of undertaking any misadventures.
For Pakistan and China, large presence in G 20 meetings in regions they consider as disputed is a major setback. China will seek to reignite its claims in Ladakh by either attempting another salami slicing exercise or renaming some regions, compelling India and the US to respond. Pakistan will watch from the side lines with its permanent representative to the UN, in both New York and Geneva, raising Kashmir, its disputed status and human rights violations, none of which would make any material difference, though India would be compelled to respond, giving their claims some legitimacy. For India, the meetings will enhance its status and put to rest all false claims by Pak and China.
The author is Major General (Retd)