Mission On Course, Mufti Brings Envoys For Golf
14 May 2003
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Here's yet another sign that the Valley is making attempts to return to normal: in the first event of its kind, Srinagar's sprawling Royal Springs Golf Course will host from Friday a golf tournament featuring officials of 50 embassies, including at least 11 ambassadors. Though police and course officials are tight-lipped on details of the three- day event, given the security concerns, top sources say the RSGC has received confirmation of participation for the Ambassadors' Cup from at least 50 of the 60 embassies it had written to. Sources said the invitation were deliberately not sent to missions of those countries 'directly or indirectly' interested in Kashmir affairs. 'So far, we have not received any communication from the American, British and French embassies about their participation,' a top course official said on condition of anonymity. Ambassadors from 11 countries, including Argentina, Singapore, Spain and Morocco, have confirmed their participation, the officer said. Other participants at the event, held at one of Asia's most scenic courses, would be junior embassy officials and some top executives of leading national corporate houses. The prizes would be given away by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, whose predecessor Farooq Abdullah had acquired a certain notoriety for his penchant for playing golf, under heavy security cover, at the height of militancy. And for his annoyance at being photographed doing so. The event isn't being publicised for security reasons, said the official. 'Our previous efforts to hold quality golf tournaments got nowhere because of premature publicity.' The government's unstated intention, of course, is to give a boost to the state's ailing tourism industry. It had recently made an effort to boost tourism by conducting a spring festival on Baisakhi, organising musical concerts and cultural programmes in the Mughal-era gardens on the Dal banks. The rush of tourists indicated that the effort was working, but the trend was cruelly cut short by a series of blasts inside the Nishat Garden that brought the fear back. Within days, the gardens and the 1,400 houseboats floating on the Dal bore a deserted look. The government is more optimistic this time, given the political atmosphere. 'We are keeping our fingers crossed. Let us hope this tournament helps to restore the confidence of visitors', a senior tourism ministry official said. 'Once these foreign dignitaries come here and enjoy a round on this world class turf, they will go back with a happy message'