Despite three prominent absentees’, the G20 Youth Summit in Ladakh was an impressive success, reports  Raashid Andrabi

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Some participants of the Y20, a G20 summit activity, in Leh on April 26, 2023

The Sino-Indian standoff has kept the world’s attention diverted towards Ladakh heights for the last two years. Now, the arid desert is in the news again, this time for playing host to around 100 delegates from 30 countries for the Y20 Pre-Summit, a precursor to the G20 Summit.

Ladakh already a preferred tourist destination for Western tourists ensured that the global event be celebrated to promote the brand Shangri La. The event kicked off with a grand flourish. The delegates descended upon the serene Sindhu Sanskriti Kendra Auditorium, transforming it into a melting pot of cultures, ideas, and aspirations. The air was abuzz with contagious energy as the guests were welcomed with traditional Ladakhi hospitality.

Soon, the guests were driven away on local excursions that left them spellbound. The pristine and spiritual monasteries of Hemis and Thiksey offered them a glimpse of Ladakh’s serene and mystic beauty. They also spent time at Sidhu Zanskar Sangam, Pather Sahab Gurdwara and Shanti Stupa.

Participants

Official sources said a total of 103 delegates attended the two-day event. As many as 68 delegates came from 17 members of the G20. Saudi Arabia, Turkey and China skipped participation.

There were 18 delegates from G20 Guest countries – five from Nigeria, four from Oman, five from Singapore and four from Spain. The global institutions that were invited and participated in the event and sent 17 participants included the ASEAN, Morocco, OECD, PAYU, UN and WHO.

Even though Turkey and Saudi Arabia skipped the event, various OIC members did attend the event. These included Indonesia – a permanent G20 member; Oman and Nigeria (G20 Guest countries) and Morocco, a special invitee.

Objective

The Y20 Pre-Summit aims to bring together leading experts, decision-makers, and youth leaders from G20 countries to discuss and formulate actionable plans for the growth and development of the people. The summit aims to address pressing issues facing young people today, including democracy, governance, innovation, climate change, disaster risk reduction, peacebuilding and reconciliation, health, well-being, and sports.

This event was the first major global event held in Ladakh since the region became a Union Territory, and it is significant in light of the ongoing political turmoil and protests that followed the abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A, which reserved special rights over land and jobs for locals.

The session was inaugurated by the Lt Governor of Ladakh, Brig BD Mishra (Retd), and graced by several dignitaries including TashiGyalson, Chief Executive Councillor, and JamyangTsering Namgyal, Member of Parliament, Ladakh.

Brig Mishra (Retd) set the stage with his speech about the potential of the youth of India and the great honour of hosting the delegates at the highest meeting point of India at 11,000 feet above sea level. He emphasized India’s famous philosophy of Athithi Devo Bhava(Guest is God) and assured the guests that they would be treated with the utmost respect and hospitality during their stay in Ladakh. The LG also spoke about the vision of G20 under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and highlighted the intelligence, commitment, and focus of the Indian youth. In fact, the event saw the launch of Modi@20, a book.

Pointing out that no other G20 member had organized a programme of this magnitude, Mishra referred to the delegates as ambassadors who would spread the word about India’s accomplishments when they returned home. To Mishra, G20 has become a household name in India.

In a vibrant display of Ladakhi culture, the LG Mishra cut the ribbon and inaugurated the much-anticipated Ladakh Haat stalls at the Y20 Pre-Summit in the scenic town of Leh. Over 40 skilled artisans from different corners of Ladakh have gathered here to showcase their exquisite handlooms, handicrafts, and processed food products, all steeped in the region’s rich heritage. The event showcased the culture, food, and traditions of Ladakh to familiarise the guest delegates with the unique lifestyle of the region. Things at display included a glimpse of the mountainous landscapes of Ladakh, Anganwadi or courtyard shelter for toddlers, handicrafts and handlooms by SHGs comprised of Ladakhi women, Pashmina wool, wood carving, apricots as a part of the horticulture heritage of Ladakh, sea buckthorn, and winter sports activities like ice climbing, ice skating, skiing, and frozen lake marathon.

Asserting that G20 under India’s Presidency has set new milestones, Youth Affairs and Sports Minister, Anurag Singh Thakur told media that there was a consensus on the five themes of the Y20 summit among the participating countries and international organizations and important suggestions have come on the future challenges including reskilling and Upskilling. The five themes included Youth in Democracy and Governance; Future of Work: Industry 4.0; Innovation and 21st Century Skills; Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction: Making Sustainability a Way of Life; Peace Building and Reconciliation: Ushering in an Era of No War and Health, Wellbeing and Sports: Agenda for Youth. The minister interacted with the delegates in Yuva Samvaad. Without naming any country, the Union minister for youth affairs and sports said those who tried to “spread fear and confusion” would now be feeling the “pain” due to the “roaring success” of the three-day event.

The event which started with yoga sessions in the mornings, concluded with the recording of two short videos on Azadi Ki Amrit Kahaniyan.

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