Revolt-torn Indian Kashmir Gets Record Tourists
27 December 2005
Srinagar: A record number of tourists visited Indian Kashmir this year since a Islamist revolt erupted in the scenic Himalayan state 16 years ago, reassured by moves to bring peace to the region, officials said on Tuesday. Last year, over 376,729 tourists visited Kashmir, once Asia's top tourist destination with its verdant meadows, snow-capped mountains, pine forests and blue lakes dotted with houseboats. 'More than 610,320 tourists visited this year. It's an all-time high since the militancy started,' Salim Baig, director-general of the state's tourism department, told Reuters. 'The security situation in the state has drastically changed and Kashmir is opening up.' Violence has eased in Kashmir after nuclear rivals India and Pakistan, both of which claim the region, launched new moves to make peace two years ago. Tens of thousands have died since the insurgency against Indian rule broke out in 1989. Though gunbattles and bomb blasts still occur, authorities say the level of violence is much less compared to previous years. 'Being the bulwark of the state economy, tourism development will be the focus and massive tourist infrastructure will be created during the next two years,' Kashmir's chief minister, Ghulam Nabi Azad, said on Sunday. Nearly a million tourists and Hindu pilgrims used to visit Kashmir annually before the insurgency broke out.