—– Bilawal thanks China, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye for staying away from G20 Summit in Srinagar
—– Slams New Delhi for exploiting Group’s Presidency to ‘push colonial’ agenda in Occupied Kashmir
—– Reiterates India cannot silence the voice of Kashmiris by holding tourism Conference
—– Adds IIOJK huddle is a continuation of India’s arrogance on international stage
MUZAFFARABAD: Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari has slammed New Delhi for “abusing” its presidency of the G20 by holding a tourism conference in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK), saying the one event cannot silence the voice of Kashmiris.
It is the first diplomatic event in the Himalayan disputed territory since Pakistan suspended trade and diplomatic ties with India in 2019, when New Delhi abrogated the semi-autonomous status of its only Muslim-majority region and en-forced a heavy security lockdown.
“I wish I could say I was surprised, but I think that this is a continuation in what is becoming a norm now, of India’s ar-rogance on the international stage,” he told AFP in a Monday interview in Muzaffarabad, the capital of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
“They’re abusing their presidency of the G20 to push their colonial agenda, but if they think that by holding one event in IIOJK they can silence the voice of the Kashmiri people, then I believe that they are truly mistaken.”
The G20 participants — made up of the European Union and the world’s 19 top economies — have been “put in a pretty awkward spot”, said the foreign minister.
“Those countries who make it a point to remind us and protest how outrageous it is that international law has been violated in Europe: I believe that they should be just as outraged when international law is violated in IIOJK,” he said, in a reference to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
China, which also claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in full as part of Tibet, has stood by Pakistan in con-demning the meeting to promote tourism in the area — renowned for its lakes, meadows and snow-capped moun-tains.
Muslim nations Saudi Arabia and Turkiye are not sending government representation, while some Western countries have scaled back their pres-ence, according to reports.
India is attempting to portray what officials have called “normalcy and peace” in the violence-wracked region by invit-ing the international communi-ty to a sprawling, well-guarded venue on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar.
Over the past week, the IIOJK residents have chafed under stepped-up security measures. Hundreds have been de-tained in police stations and thou-sands including shopkeepers have received calls from officials warning them against any “signs of protest or trouble”. “One of the most militarised zones in the world can never be seen as normal,” said Bilawal.
FM Bilawal also ruled out any chance of a warming of ties between the two countries unless New Delhi revoked the change in status of the disputed Himalayan region.
“Until this topic is addressed, it really stands in the way of peace in all of South Asia,” he added. Without it, no “mean-ingful dialogue” could begin on shared threats including militancy and worsening climate change.
The crackdown in IIOJK was ordered by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who since coming to power in 2014 has increasingly used religious polarisation to mobilise the Hindu majority. Next year, he will seek a third term in power at elections.
Separately, Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Tuesday thanked the countries who stayed away from participa-tion in the G20 tourism meeting in Srinagar.
“I salute to China, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and other countries who rejected the Indian invitation to participate in the G20 tourism meeting in the Ille-gally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir territory,” he said while addressing a public gathering in Bagh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
He said the countries that were participating in the conference had also downgraded their participation which reflect-ed that there was nothing normal in the conference.
Bilawal said how tourism could be promoted in an area where half of the local population was in jail and over 900,000 armed personals were de-ployed to curb the voices of local people demanding their right to self determination.
He said that Modi government was actually a big supporter of terrorist organizations in India which were involved in the terrorism activities against the Indian minorities including Muslims and Christians.
“When we speak for the human rights of the Kashmirs, they (Indian government) say we are representing terrorists”, he said adding “how they could call us terrorists when we also had been the victims of the terrorism”. “We want peace and represent the people affected by the terrorism”, he add-ed.
Referring to the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said when he called a butcher, a butcher or a murderer, a murderer, they started crying.
He questioned either the real terrorists were those who had placed the head money for the foreign minister of a country or those who themselves were the victims of terrorism. The foreign minister said when he met with the for-eign dignitaries, he always raised voice for the cause of Kashmiris.
He said when he was a foreign minister, he was not representing any political party but every Pakistani citizen. “When there is Kashmir cause, we always stand united on the issue by setting aside all political differences,” he said.
Kashmir issue was not the issue of Pakistan and India, but it was issue of the people of Kashmir and it had become an international problem which could not be resolved until the Kashmiris were not allowed their right to self determina-tion.
He hoped that struggle of Kashmiris would bear the fruits and days were not far away when the Kashmiris would get the freedom by exercising their right to self determination. —Agencies