Erring Calm Over Dal But Israeli Tourists Stay Put
26 August 2004
The Hindustan Times
Srinagar: A DAY after the Israeli government instructed its citizens to leave the Kashmir Valley immediately fearing militant attacks on them, an erring calm prevailed in the world famous Dal Lake where majority of Israeli tourists were putting up in houseboats. More than 1,000 Israeli tourists visited the Valley this year and in fact top the list of foreign tourists visiting the trouble-torn state. Last month, only around 370 Israeli tourists had arrived in the Valley. A good number of Koreans, Japanese, French and British nationals, too, visited the Valley this year. 'No foreigner, especially Israeli tourists, left the Valley today even though Israeli foreign ministry asked all Israelis currently in Kashmir to leave as soon as possible,' Abdul Hamid, Superintendent of Tourism Police, informed Hindustan Times. 'The foreign tourists who are coming here know that there is a trouble here, so these latest instructions by the Israeli government will not hamper foreign tourist inflow into the Valley,' he opined. On Wednesday, a Foreign Ministry spokesman of Israel had said that 'jihadi' groups active in Kashmir have spotted the presence of Israelis and could be planning an attack on them. Another senior tourist official said these instructions by the Israeli government will not effect tourist trade. 'The tourists from US, UK and other European countries, whose governments have advised their countrymen from avoiding visiting Valley, are still coming here. Last month, more than 400 tourists from the US and UK visited the Valley and enjoyed their stay here. None was harassed,' he claimed. 'There is no panic among us even though our government has asked us to leave the Valley. Muslims here are friendly to us,' said Ratazera, an Israeli tourist staying at a houseboat in Dal Lake. He said his other mates were even not aware of the their government's new direction. Manzoor Ahmed, an executive member of Houseboat Owners' Association in Srinagar, said no Israeli tourist has cancelled his reservation. 'We are expecting more tourists from that country in the days ahead. Everyday, more than 50 foreign tourists are arriving in the Valley and a maximum of them stay in houseboats,' he disclosed. Another houseboat owner, Abdul Khaliq Gasi, termed the Israeli foreign ministry statement as very unfortunate for the entire tourism industry. 'Violence is everywhere so why issue such instructions for those visiting Kashmir,' asked Gasi cynically.