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UK lifts travel advisory for Jammu and Kashmir

Jammu and Kashmir landscapeEarlier this week it was revealed that the UK has lifted its travel advisory against Jammu and Kashmir.  The state is known for its mountain scenery and clean air.  It was an internationally popular holiday destination until 1989, when an armed insurgency erupted against rule from New Delhi.  The lifting of this travel advisory is a sign that the Indian state is due for a tourism revival.

Kashmir has been plagued with violence for decades, with local militants fighting for the region to become independent of Pakistan.  However, the unrest has sharply declined over recent years, while domestic tourism in India has soared.  The UK first issued a travel advisory against Kashmir in 1995 and is now becoming the third major nation to lift the warning, following Germany and Japan.  This is seen as a global acknowledgement of the reduction in terrorist activities across the state, and the government hopes the decision will give the tourist industry a boost, as it’s the chief supporter of the state’s economy.

On Tuesday, the British High Commission said in a web post that they no longer advise against travel to Srinagar and Jammu or travel on the Jammu-Srinagar highway.  Sir James Bevan, the UK High Commissioner to New Delhi, says that the improvements to security have prompted them to lift the travel advisory for British citizens to Jammu and Kashmir.  He added that the decision will boost foreign tourism, as well as the local economy.

Despite this change, the country still advises against nationals travelling to other parts of the region, for the exception of Ladakh.  The advisory says that Brits should avoid all travel to rural areas and all travel in the immediate vicinity of the Pakistani border, except for Wagah.

The Jammu and Kashmir government released a hand-out quoting a letter from Bevan.  The hand-out said that the high commissioner reviewed the travel advice for the state after a meeting with Omar Abdullah, the state’s chief minister.  Therefore, the UK government is announcing that the security situation has led them to lift the advisory.  They will also encourage more British businessmen and holidaymakers to visit the state, which will boost its economy.

Abdullah was credited in the hand-out for his persuasion in the decision.  It said that the chief minister has taken up the issue with other diplomatic missions (like Canada and Australia), which are due to follow suit.  The initiative will likely stimulate the inflow of foreign visitors considerably.  As part of efforts to show how much the security situation in Jammu and Kashmir has changed, the government has been inviting foreign diplomats to play golf in Srinagar recently.

Welcoming the announcement, many travel business bosses have spoken up.  Showkat Choudhary, the president of the Kashmir Hotel and Restaurant Association, said that the decision will have a very positive effect on overall tourism.  There will definitely be an increase in foreign tourist numbers next year, and he hopes other nations lift their advisories as well.

Kashmir House Boat Owners association Azim Tuman said that the decision is welcome, and they thank the UK, Indian and state governments for the efforts.  This will boost foreign travel arrivals, who have been the main buyers of carpets – an industry that has been struggling due to travel advisories.  They hope other nations will follow the lead.

Meanwhile, Britain and India were due to hold talks this week to improve economic ties, as well as to expand cooperation in diverse sectors – including defence, cyber security, counter-terrorism and civil nuclear energy.  The Indian delegation was led by Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, while British Foreign Minister William Hauge led his team in discussions on global and bilateral matters.

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