China has said it will not attend the upcoming G20 tourism meeting scheduled to take place in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.
China and Pakistan have both condemned India for holding the event in the Muslim-majority Kashmir, a region that has been disputed between New Delhi and Islamabad.
Both countries claim the region in its entirety but only govern parts of it. They have fought three wars since independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 over Kashmir.
India, which holds the chair of G20 this year, has organised a series of meetings across the country in the run-up to the summit in New Delhi in September.
“China is firmly opposed to holding any kind of G20 meetings in disputed territory, and will not attend such meetings,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Wang Wenbin said on Friday.
India-Pakistan relations have been frozen since 2019 when New Delhi changed the status of Jammu and Kashmir state, ended its special status and converted it into a federal territory.
It split the state to create the two federal territories of Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh. A large chunk of Ladakh is under Chinese control.
The Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir has been roiled for decades by a rebellion seeking independence or merger with Pakistan, with tens of thousands of civilians, soldiers and Kashmiri rebels killed in the conflict.
Ties between New Delhi and Beijing have also been strained since a military clash in Ladakh in 2020 in which 24 soldiers were killed.
Srinagar, the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir, will host a meeting of the tourism working group for G20 members on May 22 to 24.
Security beefed up in Kashmir
India has countered the objection, saying it is free to hold meetings on its own territory.
On Friday, it said peace and tranquillity on its border are essential for normal ties with China.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the relationship between the nuclear-armed neighbours can only be based on mutual respect, sensitivity and interest, in comments that mark a rare articulation of New Delhi’s position since ties with Beijing deteriorated in 2020.
“India is fully prepared and committed to protect its sovereignty and dignity,” Modi said in an interview with Nikkei Asia ahead of his visit to Japan to attend the G7 summit.
The three-day gathering takes place at a sprawling, well-guarded venue on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar. Police said security was beefed up “at vulnerable locations to avoid any chance of terrorist attack during the G20” meeting.
On Friday, elite Indian commandos patrolled the streets of Srinagar. Roads leading to the location have been freshly black-topped, and electricity poles lit up in the colours of India’s national flag to show what officials say is “normalcy and peace returning” to the region.
India has been promoting tourism in Kashmir and more than a million of its citizens visited last year.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES