British Diplomat In 'banned' Kashmir

11 July 2008
The Times


London: A tour operator who stumbled across an entry in a visitors' book on a houseboat in Kashmir was surprised when he read the comments made by Sir Richard Stagg, Britain's High Commissioner to India, who had just stayed with his wife. “We had a marvellous first experience of Kashmir,” Sir Richard wrote. “The weather, the views and the people could not have been a better advertisement for this lovely part of the world. We will certainly be back.” A picture of his inscription (left) while staying on the Clermont Houseboat in Srinagar highlights the discrepancy between his personal opinion and the official stance on Kashmir. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office, to which Sir Richard reports, advises against tourist visits to Kashmir because of violence from groups opposed to Indian control. However, an FCO spokeswoman said: “He was on a fact-finding mission as part of his work. It was a personal comment.” Jonny Bealby, of Wild Frontiers, which offers Kashmir trips despite the FCO warnings, said: “There is a real sense of optimism in the vale, with a reduction in soldiers on the streets and a huge rise in tourism.”