After a clampdown which has lasted over two months, the Indian government has decided to lift restrictions on tourist visits to Jammu and Kashmir, starting on 10 October. Governor Satya Pal Malik took the decision after a review of the situation in the state.
The Jammu and Kashmir government has eased restrictions in the Kashmir Valley in phases, and has now initiated the process of elections to local bodies. Major political parties, including the Congress party and the Jammu and Kashmir National Conference, have announced they would not participate in the polls, as their leaders remain under the preventive custody initiated in early August.
Like horticulture, tourism is a mainstay of the people of Jammu and Kashmir, contributing about 8 percent to the state's GDP. The sector employs approximately 100,000 people directly and indirectly.
Since 1989, the state has been hit by an insurgency. More than 40,000 people have lost their lives, according to official estimates. Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both claim the territory in full. New Delhi and Islamabad have fought three wars since their independence from British colonial rule in 1947, two of them were over Kashmir.
Pakistan claims to be a stakeholder in Indian-administered Kashmir and has strongly objected to New Delhi’s decision to strip the state of its special status. Islamabad mounted a diplomatic offensive, adding to the threat of a nuclear conflict, which could impact countries beyond the south Asian region.
Coincidentally, the decision to lift restrictions on tourists comes ahead of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India for an informal summit with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Beijing has stated that it was “paying close attention to the current situation in Jammu and Kashmir, adding “China opposes any unilateral actions that complicate the situation.”
New Delhi, however, told Beijing that “it is not for other countries to comment on the internal affairs of India. A spokesman of the Indian External Affairs Ministry reiterated the point on Wednesday, 9 October, that “China is well aware of India's position.”