India’s decision to host a series of G20 summit tourism meetings in the Srinagar district of Indian-administered Kashmir represents yet another attempt to normalize its military occupation of the disputed Himalayan region. The planned agenda, including discussions on energy transition, environment, climate sustainability, and proposals for increased tourism, reeks of hypocrisy. By hosting G20 meetings in the contested territory, India not only legitimizes and advances its occupation but also shamelessly perpetuates the exploitation of the region’s abundant natural resources, putting its delicate ecology in jeopardy.
In a region already facing mounting ecological burdens worsened by climate change, India’s unchecked construction spree has intensified the ongoing ecocide—the crime of causing severe and widespread long-term damage to the environment by committing unlawful or wanton acts that are known to bring harm. This destructive pattern is embodied in India’s resource exploitation in the region as it converts extensive forested areas into lifeless concrete jungles for urban development, clears trees to make way for military encampments, relentlessly constructs environmentally destructive dams, and extracts minerals without adhering to essential environmental standards. Moreover, the promotion of tourism in the region is devoid of any form of regulation or sustainability measures, further compounding the assault on delicate ecosystems.
The consequences of India’s actions in the region are already evident in widespread deforestation, accelerated glacier melting, increased occurrences of flash floods, landslides and earthquakes, as well as heightened water, air and land pollution including toxic hazardous waste. Plastic pollution, including microplastics, is also a growing problem in the glacial regions. Moreover, the production of sewage and litter has increased, leading to habitat loss and biodiversity decline. These factors exacerbate the impacts of climate change in the region, disproportionately affecting Kashmiris living under Indian military occupation.
India solidified its hold on the region by reducing the semiautonomous status of Kashmir to a union territory in 2019. This move, accomplished through the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35A of the Constitution, paved the way for India to ramp up its green colonialism through exploitation of the region’s resources for its own energy transition and sustainability. In contrast, India denies indigenous Kashmiris the right to their own resources, dispossessing them of their ancestral lands and the forests they rely on to build infrastructure projects and conservation parks. Despite having abundant natural resources, Kashmiris suffer from severe water and energy shortages—sometimes lasting as long as 12 hours. The true cost of India’s “environment and climate sustainability” is the ethnic cleansing, displacement, and dispossession of the Kashmiri people, condemning them to generations of poverty and trauma.
The recent discovery of 5.9 million tons of lithium reserves in the Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir raises further concerns. In the past, Indian companies have proceeded with the construction of large infrastructure projects without conducting necessary environmental impact assessments or before receiving environmental clearance from authorities. As lithium is a key component in the manufacturing of electric vehicle batteries, this discovery could make India a top manufacturer of electric vehicles. However, India’s increasing interest in extracting and exploiting these reserves has made the locals fearful of losing their village to destruction. If unstopped, this will lead to another wave of forced displacement of Kashmiris from their lands.
Instead of benefiting the locals, such so-called development is bringing immense harm, as India is selling a number of historic tourist sights to nonlocal companies through private-public partnerships, including the Royal Spring Golf Courses. In a similar fashion, India has put structural barriers in place that limit Kashmiris from accessing their own resources. In 2020, India made a number of mineral rights in the region available for lease through an online bidding process. Local companies were prevented by the Internet blockade enforced by India from fairly participating in the bidding process and lost the majority of mineral blocks for the first time ever to nonlocal Indian companies. This reveals India’s true motives behind the revocation of Kashmir’s semiautonomous status—to transfer the ownership of Kashmiri properties, lands and resources to Indians.
The G20 meetings in Srinagar will enable India to further commit ecocide by encouraging tourism in the fragile region. Most tourist destinations in the region have already exhausted their current carrying capacity, resulting in pollution of the pristine glacial regions with toxic plastic waste, while also causing severe water shortages for locals during high tourist season. The rapid melting of glaciers is adversely affecting fish and aquatic life, and threatening the health and livelihoods of Kashmiris who rely on glacial snowmelt for agriculture. Kashmir has more than 12,000 glaciers which are receding rapidly and being contaminated with toxic plastic waste.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Climate provides a holistic approach to climate action and sustainable development. India’s approach, characterized by military occupation, resource exploitation and green colonialism, is certainly not part of this framework. As signatories to the Paris Agreement, the parties attending the G20 summit have a binding commitment to take just and equitable climate action. These parties must boycott the G20 meetings in Srinagar, as their participation would make them complicit in legitimizing India’s military occupation of Kashmir, human rights violations, green colonialism and ongoing ecocide in the region.