The central government’s decision to hold the G-20 Working Group on Tourism in Srinagar has run into controversy. China was the first to follow the criticism levelled by the UN Special Rapporteur to declare that it will not be participating in the meeting. And key members Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and invitee Egypt have since decided not to join the working group meeting in Srinagar.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said, “China is firmly opposed to holding anjy kind of G-20 meetings in disputed territory, and will not attend such meetings.” India countered this by saying it is free to hold meetings in its own territory, and that peace and tranquility onn the border was essential for normal ties with China.

The Chinese objection followed the statement by the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes that “the Government of India is seeking to normalise what some have described as a military occupation by instrumentalizing a G20 meeting and portray an international 'seal of approval.” (Read: The Indian response to China was a quiet assertion that it was free to hold meetings in its own territory. And that ‘peace and tranquility’ on the border is essential for normal ties with China.

There has been no formal announcement by Turkey and Saudi Arabia but neither registered for the working group meet in Srinagar till date. Egypt is not a member of the G-20 but a special invitee amongst nine other countries, and has decided not to attend the meeting in Kashmir. Indonesia was also indecisive initially but is now participating in the three days working group meeting that started yesterday, Monday.

Srinagar has got a face lift in preparation for the meeting. However, tight security greeted the delegates when they landed at the airport with heavy deployment of the Army and paramilitary forces. The Chief Coordinator of G20 Harshavardhan Shingha said that the Srinagar meet had the highest number of delegates so far.

However, the controversy continues. Both former chief ministers of Jammu and Kashmir Mehbooba Mufti and Omar Abdullah have slammed the meeting. Mufti claimed that the region had been turned into the equivalent of Guantanamo Bay prison. Abdullah said it was a ‘tamasha’.

The first day of the meeting focused on ‘film tourism’ with RRR movie star Ram Charan brought in as the chief guest.An official statement highlighted the role the production of films could play in enhancing tourism and creating more opportunities.

Some Photographs of the meeting by The Citizen Photographer in Srinagar BASIT ZARGAR: