SRINAGAR: The forthcoming G-20 meeting may be a “good promotion exercise” for the BJP at the international level but holding the SAARC summit and discussing problems in the region would help India in becoming a ‘Vishwaguru’, says the last chief minister of erstwhile Jammu and Kashmir state Mehbooba Mufti.
Mehbooba was speaking to PTI-video on the preparations for the G-20 grouping meeting on tourism in Srinagar from May 22 to 24.
Amid strain in India-Pakistan ties, the biennial SAARC summits have not taken place since the 2014 meeting in Kathmandu.
“We don’t live close to Australia, America or Japan which are members of G-20. We are living in this region and the SAARC caters to the problems of this region and if the government takes the initiative and has a summit of SAARC countries and addresses the problems that are being faced by this region including what is happening in Pakistan” that will help India to be the leader in the region and the world, she said.
But the government “has to understand that the road leads through SAARC and not through G-20”, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) chief said.
The G-20 event will be the first international meeting being held in Kashmir after the abrogation of Article 370 and bifurcation of the erstwhile state into two union territories — Jammu and Kashmir, and Ladakh — in August 2019.
“As far as G-20 is concerned, it has been made into a BJP event because even the logo has been replaced by a lotus. It may be a kind of good promotion for the party itself and as far as Jammu and Kashmir is concerned, especially the Valley you have seen the way the crackdowns are going on…,” she said.
However, the Jammu and Kashmir police denied any high-handedness saying that only those people against whom there is digital evidence of indulging in anti-national activities have been detained.
Mehbooba said that G-20 “may be a good PR exercise for BJP at international level but it is not going to make India the ‘Vishwaguru’ which they talk about”.
It is the SAARC and if the leadership here takes an initiative to have a SAARC summit “that is something that can really establish the leadership of India in this region and ultimately it can establish its leadership in the world,” she opined.
The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), set up in December 1985, is a grouping of eight countries — India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
The last planned summit scheduled to be held in Islamabad on November 15-19 in 2016 was called off as India expressed its inability to participate due to “prevailing circumstances” following a terror attack on an Indian Army camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir. Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan had also declined to participate.
Kashmir will be hosting the third G-20 tourism working group meeting from May 22 and 24. The first working group meeting on tourism was held at Rann of Kutch in Gujarat in February and the second one at Siliguri in West Bengal in April.
Even as authorities have spruced up the city for the event, Mehbooba claimed that the roads of Srinagar have been “destroyed in a brutal way” and the “heritage stones have all been uprooted and replaced by some cheap kind of tiles, public toilet tiles.”
While fiercely criticising the BJP, Mehbooba maintains that PDP allying with the saffron party in 2014 to form the government was not a mistake.
She stressed that her father and former Union home minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed wanted to safeguard Article 370, land and employment rights for the people of Jammu and Kashmir” and that is why he took a “bold step” and put everything at risk “including his credibility, his party, and his politics for a larger cause at stake”.
“And today when we see the way they have dismantled everything, they have scrapped Article 370 unconstitutionally, it proved that my father was right in reaching out, engaging the BJP for a larger cause,” she said.
Today, however, she feels that the gulf between Srinagar and New Delhi has not only expanded but “it has gone beyond repair”.
She also said the conditions in J-K were “a far cry” from being conducive for holding elections.
Asked about her views on the resumption of India-Pakistan dialogue and the situation in Pakistan, she said, “Why should they (India) decide to talk this time when they know Pakistan is in shambles. I mean, they know when to talk. They are much wiser than you and me.”
She said that the judiciary and the media in Pakistan are “in a better form than in many other places in the world”.
“I think Pakistan is in shambles and there are no two opinions about that, but there is a saving grace that is the judiciary and the media. They are holding the system accountable and that is something that may save the country ultimately,” she said.
To a question about Pakistan pushing its agenda of terrorism in India, she said it is condemnable.
On the Karnataka poll results, she said the people have “rejected the divisive agenda of the ruling party who even brought deities like Lord Hanuman into the narrative and talked about not needing Muslim votes”.
“I salute the people of Karnataka that they have shown wisdom and voted on issues that are unemployment, inflation, and other problems. That is a good sign and I hope this is something that is carried forward even during parliamentary elections next year,” she’ said.
Mehbooba again batted for Opposition unity.
“If we have to save the country, we have to save the democracy in the country, we have to save the Constitution of this country, and for that, all the parties have to forget their differences and come together that is the most important thing to do if we want the idea of India to survive,” she said.