- “I salute China, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye who rejected India’s invitation.”
- FM says countries downgraded their participation in the conference.
- “Kashmiris will achieve freedom through right to self-determination.”
Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday appreciated the countries including China, Saudi Arabia and Turkiye among others for skipping the G20 tourism summit in Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).
“I salute China, Saudi Arabia, Turkiye and other countries who rejected the Indian invitation to participate in the G20 tourism meeting in the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir territory,” he said while addressing a public gathering in Bagh, Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
The G20 tourism conference 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 enforced a heavy security lockdown.
Bilawal, who is also chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), said the countries that were participating in the conference had also downgraded their participation which reflected that there was nothing normal in the conference.
He questioned how tourism could be promoted in an area where half of the local population was in jail and over 900,000 armed personnel were deployed to curb the voices of local people demanding their right to self-determination.
The foreign minister said that Narendra Modi-led government was actually a big supporter of terrorist organisations 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”.
He also said, “We want peace and represent the people affected by terrorism.”
Referring to Indian PM Modi, Bilawal said when he called “a butcher, a butcher or a murderer, a murderer, they started crying”.
He questioned whether 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 foreign dignitaries, he always raised his voice for the cause of Kashmiris.
Bilawal said when he is a foreign minister, he is 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.
The Kashmir dispute was not an issue of Pakistan and India, but it is the issue of the people of Kashmir and it has become an international problem which could not be resolved until the Kashmiris are not allowed to exercise their right to self-determination.
He hoped that the struggle of Kashmiris would bear the fruits and days were not far away when the Kashmiris would get freedom by exercising their right to self-determination.
China, which also claims the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh in full as part of Tibet, has stood by Pakistan in condemning the meeting to promote tourism in the area — renowned for its lakes, meadows and snow-capped mountains.
Muslim nations Saudi Arabia and Turkiye are not sending government representation, while some Western countries have scaled back their presence, according to reports.
India is attempting to portray what officials have called “normalcy and peace” in the violence-wracked region by inviting the international community to a sprawling, well-guarded venue on the shores of Dal Lake in Srinagar.
Over the past week, IIOJK residents have chafed under stepped-up security measures. Hundreds have been detained in police stations and thousands including shopkeepers have received calls from officials warning them against any “signs of protest or trouble”.
— With additional input from AFP.