Two million tourists, including 70000 foreigners, visited Valley last year. Last three months alone have seen half a million tourists. Pakistan-administrated Azad Jammu Kashmir is still a ‘no go area’ for foreign tourists
From craftsmen and boatmen to hotel owners and common workers associated with tourism and hospitality industry, everybody is glad to see the flocks of holidaymakers in Kashmir but not the puritans. They are enraged to see the miniskirts and skimpy dresses of foreign tourists. Local hardcore politico-religious group, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) has warned travelers to desist from wearing ‘inadequate clothes, threatening them of an irritated reaction if they failed to do so’.[i]
In this summer Srinagar being one of the most favourite tourist attractions in India, is fully packed with tourists who have poured back into the region after a downturn in the separatist violence that had wrecked the tourism industry.
The JI diktak that warns government for dire consequence if it fails to enforce dress code for foreign travelers is reminiscent of 1995 kidnapping of four foreign tourists allegedly by Islamic group Alfaran which put the final nails in the coffin of staggering tourism sector which is one of the State’s major industries.
The controversial abduction of tourists projected the peaceful self-determination struggle of Kashmiris as “an Islamic terrorist movement’, sponsored by Pakistani clerics like Masood Azhar, who was stated to be involved in the abduction of Norwegian tourists.[ii]
With the legacy of such anti-tourist background, now extremists in Kashmir have emerged again to dent the recuperating tourism sector and also brutalising the tolerant culture of the region where in spite of substantial monetary aid by Saudi Arabia for its local like-minded groups like Jamaat and Jammiat Ahal-e-Hadis; and armed operations of Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militants to propagate the Wahabi Islam, majority of the people still follows sufi Islam, a relatively liberal version of the religion.
Rise of insurgency
The insurgency erupted in the Kashmir valley in 1989 that badly affected local tourism industry besides having unspeakable human, political, psychological and social implications. Before the militancy the number of sightseers visiting the State was 7,000,000 per year, but in the following years it turned into a few thousands yearly. The rise of militancy from 1989 to 2002 caused approximately $3.6 in financial loss to the local economy because 27 million expected tourists did not arrive owing to the security situation.[iii]
However, relatively considerable peace and normalcy in a conflict-ravaged region has boosted tourism again. In the post 9/11 scenario, dwindling militancy in Kashmir has witnessed 45 per cent decrease, therefore, in the first quarter of 2012, 26 militancy related incidents took place as compared to 48 encounters and shootings happened in the same period last year. [iv]
Since growing normalization is alluring holidaymakers to the Valley, the region saw more than 2 million tourists, including 70,000 foreigners last year.[v] This summer a record number of tourists visited Kashmir. Officials estimate that last three months alone have seen half a million tourists visiting the state.[vi] And they expect extraordinary surge in coming weeks.
In contrast, on the other side of the border, Pakistan-administrated Azad Jammu Kashmir is still a ‘no go area’ for foreign tourists who are not permitted by Pakistan to visit Azad Jammu Kashmir.[vii] Indian-held Kashmir was opened for mass tourism in the 1970s although a sizeable number of non-Indian tourists had already visited after obtaining special permission.[viii] Even during the peak years of violence Indian governments continued to develop the tourism infrastructure. Therefore, in order to connect the region with the Himalayan foothill by train the Kashmir Railway Project (KRP) is underway. The $13billion project will allow a 900km (560 mile) journey direct from Delhi to Srinagar. [ix]
Moreover, in post-recession setting developing economies like China, India etc. have arisen as one of the major popular tourist destinations for international travellers due to soaring inflation in the developed world.[x] In such situation, India attempts to attract this large consumer market by marketing its domestic tourist resorts, mainly Kashmir.
Current ‘Incredible India’ advertising campaign and strong diplomatic lobbying by India to underscore its tourism charm globally is another factor which boosted the tourist industry in Kashmir. Indian diplomatic missions in the West and the Middle East attempt to convince the travellers that “Kashmir is as safe as other tourist destinations in the world”.[xi]
Along with international tourists Kashmir has also huge potential for regional travellers. Trans-Line of Control (LoC) tourism in Kashmir can flourish if India and Pakistan agree to provide facilities and concessions to the religious tourists. All the regions of Jammu and Kashmir have many attractions for followers of different religions. For instance, Hindu pilgrims in India and its administrated Kashmir have been urging Pakistani government to allow them to visit the world famous Sharda Shrine in Neelum (Kishanganga) valley of Pakistan administrated Kashmir.[xii]
In the same valley historical remnants of centuries-old Buddhist Sharda University are also an obvious place of fascination for Buddhist populations from India, Tibet and South East Asia. This unexplored archaeological site also needs due attention of global and regional sociologists and geologists in order to conserve the natural history.
Similarly, Indian Kashmir has abundance of places of natural, cultural and religious connotations for locals and outsiders. Therefore, people across the border from Pakistani administrated Gilgit Baltistan and AJK regions should be permitted to visit these locations either to enjoy the natural beauty or fulfil their cherished spiritual and emotional dreams. The demand to expand the spectrum of human interactions across the LoC is also reinforced by the fact that recent people-to-people contacts between divided Kashmir have not been so effective and successful as it was expected. The major reason is that all Intra-Kashmir travel process has been confined only to the divided families.
Peace Bus Service
So far, less than 10 per cent of the 48,226 applicants have managed to travel across the Line of Control (LoC) via Srinagar-Muzaffarabad and Poonch-Rawalakot roads during the last two years. In this period, only 624 citizens from Indian Administrated Kashmir and 2,003 from Pakistani side crossed the LoC to meet their family members. [xiii]
On April 7, 2005, a bus service, Karwan-e-Aman, was started between Indian and Pakistani parts of Kashmir after 58 years to facilitate the coming together of divided families. The Cross LOC travel later that year started from Chakan-da-bagh in Pooch district of Jammu/Pooch region.
However, ruthless and senseless security checks and pathetic bureaucratic processes imposed by Indian and Pakistan governments on this bus service have rendered this Confidence Building Measure (CBM) ineffective.
While call for widening the continuum of people exchanges for peace building in Kashmir has been raised by the local stakeholders, tourism in Kashmir, is bound to struggle with self-proclaimed moral policing and morality.
[i] Pandit , S. (2012) ‘No mini-skirts’: Jamiat wants dress code for J&K tourists(online) available at:
[ii] Fifth Tourist Kidnapped in Kashmir(online) available at:
[iii] Seema Shekhawat et. al ( 2008) The Peace Process and Prospects for Economic Reconstruction in Kashmir published in Peace and Conflict Review · Volume 3 Issue 1(p 17) online available at: http://www.review.upeace.org/pdf.cfm?articulo=66&ejemplar=7
[iv] Chidambaram reviews Jammu and Kashmir security (online) available at:
[v] Bureau, H.P.(2012) Peace dividend – Tourists throng Kashmir valley(online) available at:
[vi] Islah. M.(2012) Kashmir Valley is the new investors' paradise (online) available at:
[viii] Suba Chandran et. al (2011) Tourism and Peace-building in Jammu and Kashmir, United States Institute of Peace, Washington. (online) available at:
[ix] Kashmir Railway, India, Key Data (online) available at:
x New lands in sight: How developing countries emerge as tourist destinations. (online) available at:
[xi] ‘Kashmir as safe as any place in the world’(online) available at: http://www.greaterkashmir.com/news/2012/Jan/11/-kashmir-as-safe-as-any-place-in-the-world--44.asp
[xii] Hindus from J&K be allowed to visit Sharda temple: KPC(online) available at:
[xiii] Sharma, A. (2012) Less than 10% applicants travelled across LoC in two years (online) available at: