ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Tuesday expressed his gratitude to Saudi Arabia and other countries for deciding to stay away from a Group of 20 (G20) working group meeting in Srinagar during a visit to Azad Kashmir.
Earlier this year, Pakistan slammed New Delhi for arranging the G20 Tourism Working Group event in a region that it says is under Indian military occupation.
The Pakistani foreign office said in April the Indian decision would not change the fact that Kashmir was recognized as an internationally disputed territory by the United Nations Security Council and the world at large.
“I salute China, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye and other countries for rejecting the Indian invitation to participate in the G20 tourism meeting in the Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir,” the minister was quoted as saying by the state-owned Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) news agency while addressing a public rally in Azad Kashmir’s Bagh district.
He wondered how could tourism by promoted in a place “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 G20 meeting is India’s first attempt to gather members of the international community to the disputed region since it revoked Kashmir’s special constitutional status in August 2019 to bring it under its direct control.
The event, which started in high security on Monday, became controversial after the Saudi and Chinese governments decided to boycott it.
The Pakistani foreign minister said earlier this week New Delhi was “misusing” its G20 presidency by holding the tourism meeting in the disputed region.
He also told the residents of Azad Kashmir in Bagh their struggle would ultimately be fruitful, adding that Kashmiris would soon be able to exercise their right to self-determination.