Wednesday, June 4, 2014

India: US, UK Extend Travel Warnings to Destinations of Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Gulmarg in Kashmir

According to http://www.greaterkashmir.com, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office in New Delhi has recommended to British citizens not to travel to tourist destinations of Pahalgam, Sonamarg and Gulmarg in Kashmir, thus continuing with its decade-old sharp travel warning that has dealt a severe blow to state’s tourism industry.

The FCO warning was issued on May 27.

The latest FCO announcement comes following the US Department of State’s adverse travel advisory on Kashmir that cited “militant incidents” and “violent public unrest” in Kashmir. 

Like US citizens, the advisory for European nationals to not travel to Kashmir has been in effect since 1995, when six foreign tourists were kidnapped by a militant organization, Al-Faran, in south Kashmir’s Pahalgam in Islamabad (Anantnag) district. The kidnapped tourists included two British citizens, Keith Mangan and Paul Wells.

Out of the six hostages, a US citizen, escaped. Others were killed. More than a decade later, in their investigative book, ‘The Meadow,’ two foreign journalists, Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark, held intelligence agencies and home-grown renegades responsible for the kidnapping of the tourists and their subsequent murder.

COMMENT: “There have been no recent reported attacks on visitors in the cities of Srinagar or Jammu,” yet the FCO, adds that foreigners remain vulnerable in rural districts and outside the main population centers and tourist areas.
 
“There is a risk of unpredictable violence, including bombings, grenade attacks, shootings and kidnapping,” it says.

The FCO has also made reference to a July 2012 grenade attack on a minibus carrying tourists in south Kashmir’s Bijbehara district in which “three people were killed, including two British nationals. Four members of the group were also injured.”

“The advisory has a huge impact on state’s economy as high-spending tourists desist from visiting Kashmir,” Kashmir’s Director Tourism Talat Parvez had said in reaction to the extension of travel advisory by US State Department this year. 

In February, the US Department of State extended by one year the advisory citing “militant incidents” and “violent public unrest” in Kashmir.