India has strongly criticised the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Fernand de Varennes, for objecting to its plan to host a G20 meeting in Jammu and Kashmir (J&K). The Indian government has accused de Varennes of exceeding his mandate, behaving irresponsibly, and politicising the matter.
In response to de Varennes’ comments, the Permanent Mission of India to the UN offices in Geneva tweeted, “We @IndiaUNGeneva strongly reject the statement issued by SR on minority issues @fernanddev & the baseless & unwarranted allegations in it. As G20 President, it’s India’s prerogative to host its meetings in any part of the country.”
India, which holds the presidency of the G20, defended its decision to host the meeting in Jammu and Kashmir, asserting its right to choose the location. The country emphasised that the G20 should uphold international human rights obligations and the UN Declaration of Human Rights, urging the international community to acknowledge and condemn the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, rather than ignore it.
The dispute between India and the UN official arises from differing perspectives on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir. India maintains that the region is an integral part of its territory and that hosting international meetings there is within its sovereign rights. However, the UN and some other countries have raised concerns about human rights issues and the security situation in the region.
Jammu and Kashmir, a disputed territory between India and Pakistan, has been a subject of contention for decades. Both countries claim sovereignty over the entire region and have engaged in conflicts and diplomatic disputes over it. The Indian government revoked the region’s special autonomous status in 2019, leading to heightened tensions and protests.
Fernand de Varennes, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, has expressed concern about the impact of the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir on the rights of minority communities in the region. He believes that the G20 meeting should focus on addressing these human rights issues rather than ignoring them.Varennes alleged that India was “seeking to normalise” what some had described “as a military occupation” over J&K by instrumentalising a G20 meeting and portraying an international “seal of approval”.
Varennes stated in a tweet that holding a G20 meeting in Jammu and Kashmir while massive human rights violations were ongoing would be tantamount to “lending support to attempts by India to normalise the brutal and repressive denial of democratic & (and) other rights of (the) Kashmiri Muslims and minorities”.
Islamabad, too has been protesting New Delhi’s plan to hold the G20 event in J&K, which, according to it, remains an area of dispute between Pakistan and India.
New Delhi dismissed protests from Islamabad, reiterating that the entire J&K, including the area illegally occupied by Pakistan, had been, was and would remain an integral part of India.
New Delhi has planned to hold a meeting of the G20 Working Group on Tourism in Srinagar from May 22 and 24, just as it has been organising similar events in other cities across the country during the run-up to the bloc’s 18th summit, which Prime Minister Narendra Modi will host in the national capital on September 9 and 10 next.
India’s rejection of de Varennes’ criticism underscores its position that the G20 meeting in Jammu and Kashmir will provide an opportunity to showcase development efforts in the region and promote economic cooperation. The Indian government has repeatedly emphasized its commitment to protecting human rights and improving the lives of all its citizens, including minority communities.
The controversy surrounding the G20 meeting in Jammu and Kashmir highlights the ongoing tensions and divergent viewpoints regarding the region. As discussions continue, it remains to be seen how the international community will respond and whether alternative arrangements for the G20 meeting will be considered.