March 2006 News

Britain modifies travel advisory

9 March 2006
The Hindu
Shujaat Bukhari

Jammu: The British government has modified travel advisory for its nationals travelling to Jammu and Kashmir only restricting their movement in rural areas. The modification has also termed Jammu as 'peaceful.' The advisory is likely to go a long way to boost the tourism industry in the state. Confirming this, Director general of Tourism M. Saleem Beg said: 'It is a major development and we look forward to other European countries to follow suit.' According to Mr. Beg the modified advisory reads: 'We advise against all travel to or through rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir (other than Ladakh) and all but essential travel by air to Srinagar. There is a high level of conflict and terrorist violence in Jammu and Kashmir (excluding Ladakh). Jammu city is somewhat safer but attacks still occur.' He said that it was a pleasant departure from the past as the old advisory by the British government was like this 'we strongly advise against all travel to Jammu and Kashmir except Ladakh via Manali or air.' In 1990, the British government advisory had placed almost a blanket ban on its citizens visiting Jammu and Kashmir. It was made more stringent in 1995 when the Al-Faran militant outfit kidnapped and killed five foreign tourists in Kashmir. Two of them were British nationals. But in the past two years the Jammu and Kashmir government made a lot of efforts to convince the British government that the situation had improved. The former Chief Minister, Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, himself visited the U.K. twice. In fact a number of tour operators played an important role in convincing the British government to take this decision. Vivek Angara, director of London-based India Tourism, said in a letter to the tourism department of the Indian government that the efforts by the Jammu and Kashmir government to woo foreign tourists had resulted in the changed advisory. He said the group with the help of friends in the Labour party had organised an exhibition on Kashmir in March 2005 that was attended by British Prime Minister Tony Blair.


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