The stage is set for the three-day G20 event in Kashmir beginning on Monday.
After nearly four decades, this is for the first time an international event of huge significance is being held in Jammu and Kasmir.
The last time an international event was held in Kashmir was a one-day cricket match between West Indies and India in Srinagar. The match was disrupted by a separatist mob opposed to holding an international event in Kashmir.
The G20 event assumes importance as it is held over three years after the revocation of Article 370 which granted Jammu and Kashmir limited autonomy.
Observers believe that by holding the event in Kashmir, India is making a bold statement that Jammu and Kashmir is an integral part of the country.
A three-tier security cover has been put in place so that the event passed off without any incident. For aerial surveillance, anti-drone equipment by the National Security Guard (NSG) and army is being deployed. The NSG and J&K Police’s special operation group (SOG) will be deployed at several venues to counter fidayeen (suicide) attacks by militants. They will also be responsible for countering drone attacks.
The Navy’s marine commandos (MARCOS) will be deployed in Dal Lake to tackle any threats to the Sheri-e-Kashmir International Conference Center (SKICC), the venue of the G20’s Tourism Working Group on the banks of the Dal Lake. The MARCOS will also provide security to international delegates during Shikara rides in Dal Lake. The NSG and CRPF’s quick reaction teams conducted mock security drills in Dal Lake on Friday to deal with any eventuality.
More than 180 delegates, including Indian officials, will be staying at two five-star hotels overlooking Dal Lake in Srinagar. The delegates will get to witness different cultural programmes performed by the local artists of Jammu and Kashmir.
For real-time situational awareness, 1,000 CCTV have been installed across the city. Officials said that everything is being watched and security forces are ready to thwart any threat. The security bunkers in the city have been given a facelift and turned into smart bunkers. Area domination by the police and other security forces has been heightened. The traffic police in Srinagar has issued a traffic advisory restricting the movement of the traffic on the road leading to SKICC for two days.
All G20 countries except China, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have confirmed their participation in the event. China, an ally of Pakistan has opposed the holding of the event in Jammu and Kashmir, while Turkey and Saudi Arabia have stayed away due to lobbying by Pakistan and China. The first meeting of the G20 Tourism Working Group meeting was held under India’s presidency in February at Rann of Kutch in Gujarat while the second meeting was held in Siliguri, West Bengal from April 1 to 3.
Meanwhile, Srinagar, which is undergoing major makeover under the smart city project, has been decked up for the event and all roads leading to SKICC are being spruced. The walls of the Bakshi Stadium have been painted to exhibit art including images of sports figures and famous athletes, bringing colour and meaning to the stadium.
Roads are also getting a significant facelift with repair and maintenance picking up speed.