The highlights this week: India plans to host a G-20 meeting in Kashmir next month, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina blasts the United States in a parliamentary speech, and the Adani Group shows that it is not letting fraud allegations get in the way of its energy investments.
India Brings the G-20 to Kashmir
India recently released a list of upcoming G-20 meetings it will host as this year’s president of the group of top economies. The list includes a tourism working group meeting in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir, in May. The meeting will mark the first major international event in the disputed region since August 2019, when India revoked Indian-administered Kashmir’s special autonomous status.
By hosting the meeting in Srinagar, India likely aims to highlight its rich geographic diversity. It held G-20 tourism meetings in the states of Gujarat and West Bengal earlier this year and has scheduled another in the state of Goa in June. But New Delhi also probably wants to signal that Indian-administered Kashmir is stable, peaceful, and ready to engage with the world after the 2019 decision.
Taken at face value, some recent developments suggest a return to normalcy in Kashmir. Militant violence has subsided, although the Hindu minority has suffered a recent spate of deadly attacks. Tourism figures for Jammu and Kashmir, one of two Indian union territories in the region, broke records last year, although the tourism is mostly domestic. Investors are coming, too. In March, an Emirati property company announced a $60 million project to build a shopping mall and offices in Srinagar. Direct air corridors are reemerging.
However, by other measures, little has changed. In the Muslim-majority Kashmir Valley, public anger with New Delhi remains rife. The region remains heavily militarized, with continuing crackdowns on the right to protest and freedom of speech. One Kashmiri contact, who requested anonymity out of concern for their safety, said that India’s G-20 meeting in Srinagar is just an “attempt to fake normalcy.”
Press restrictions in Indian-administered Kashmir are especially draconian. The space for media has “drastically eroded” since 2019, one Kashmiri journalist told me. Newspapers are reduced to “extensions of the government’s PR department,” another said. A source confirmed that Thursday marked the beginning of the trial of journalist Fahad Shah, editor of the Kashmir Walla and a previous FP contributor. Shah was arrested on terrorism charges in February 2022 for publishing what police described as “anti-national” material and faces potential life imprisonment if convicted.
Kashmiris are also grappling with electoral uncertainty. Jammu and Kashmir hasn’t had elections since 2014. India’s Election Commission may visit the territory this month; ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leaders say they are ready for elections, but they have not provided a timetable. With six state elections between May and the end of the year, India may want to wait—perhaps until national elections, which are expected to be held by May 2024.
Despite all this, relatively little of the world’s attention focuses on Kashmir today. When it does, it’s increasingly seen through a lens of opportunity. Foreign investors are coming, international flights are returning, and G-20 delegations will soon visit. UNESCO has even added Srinagar to its Creative Cities Network. In the global eye, Kashmir is seemingly returning to normalcy. And that’s exactly what New Delhi wants…
This story was originally published in foreignpolicy.com. Read the full story here