The Indian government has criticized five western nations for asking their citizens to avoid travelling to the sub-continent during the holiday season over “possible terrorist attacks.”
As India celebrates the Diwali “Festival of Lights,” several more holidays – Hindu, Islamic, Sikh, among others -- will be observed from now until January. The winter is typically the busiest season for business and pleasure travel to Indi, including visits home by millions of Indians in the Diaspora.
The United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have all issued similar warnings against travelling to India.
For example, the U.S. State Department said it urges citizens to pay particular attention to their personal security between October and January. Recent Indian government advisories and local media report increased indications that terrorists are planning attacks in India.”
Similarly, Britain’s Foreign & Commonwealth Office warned: “There is a high threat from terrorism throughout India. Recent attacks have targeted public places including those visited by foreigners. Following explosions in Delhi on 7 September and Mumbai on 13 July, major cities in India remain on high alert and British nationals should exercise caution.”
The UK Foreign Office singled out Kashmir as a place to be avoided.
“We advise against all travel to rural areas of Jammu and Kashmir other than Ladakh; all travel in the immediate vicinity of the border with Pakistan, other than at Wagah; and all travel in Manipur. We advise against all but essential travel to Srinagar and Imphal,” it said.
New Delhi officials are concerned that such alerts are unnecessary and will hurt India’s tourism revenue.
India’s tourism minister Subodh Kant Sahay told the Times of India newspaper: This is nothing but scaremongering. Leave aside other parts of India, 100 percent booking is being reported from Jammu and Kashmir. If this isn't a sign of normalcy, what is?
Sahay said he and officials with the external ministry will seek to convince the five countries to rescind the travel advisories.
According to reports, foreign tourist arrivals in India grew by 10 percent during the January-August 2011 period.