MUZAFFARABAD: Hundreds of people rallied in Azad Kashmir on Monday to protest arch-rival India’s decision to host a G20 tourism meeting in the occupied part of the Himalayan region, said a government official.
New Delhi is hosting the key conference in Kashmir’s summer capital Srinagar from Monday to Wednesday, a move which Pakistan and longtime ally China have opposed.
Several protesters demonstrated in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and other cities, chanting: “Go India go back and boycott, boycott G20 boycott!”, said the official Raja Azhar Iqbal.
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari visited the region and addressed Kashmir’s legislative assembly on Monday. He termed the G20 gathering as illegal, and an attempt by India to seek legitimacy over its control of the disputed region.
“India is misusing its position as G20 chair,” he said, and urged the world to take note of New Delhi’s “gross human rights violations” since India scrapped Kashmir’s special status in August 2019.
The G20 tourism working group meeting is the first international event in the region since the annexation.
Indian foreign ministry didn’t respond to a request for a comment.
Nuclear-armed nations, Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over Kashmir, which they each claim in full but control parts of.
G20 consists of 19 rich nations and the European Union. India at present holds it presidency, and is set to host its annual summit in New Delhi in September.
India hopes the meeting will help revive international tourism in the scenic Kashmir Valley which has been roiled by an armed freedom movement against Indian occupation since 1989.