After the controversy of dress code diktat from religious groups, it was moderate separatist Umar Farooq who took objection to some tourists visiting the valley. Mirwaiz, chairman of moderate faction of Hurriyat Conference (M), expressed concern over government encouraging Israeli tourists to visit Kashmir.
“Government should explain why it’s encouraging Israelis to visit Kashmir. Muslims all over the world have problem with Israel due to its aggressive policy towards Palestine,” Mirwaiz told a Friday congregation at Jamia Masjid in Srinagar.
Mirwaiz was reacting to tourism department conducting road shows in Israel to promote tourism.
“Isreal is one of the biggest enemies of Islam and we see a design in all this,” Mirwaiz said.
Artists and officials from the state had taken part in a road show in Israel to promote Kashmir as an international tourist destination.
Sponsored by central government, Jammu and Kashmir was a part of a contingent of about 18 states which participated in the road show last month.
“The road show was a part of the ministry of tourism sponsored event held in a few countries in Middle East and Europe. Israel was part of a three country tour which included Dubai and Jordan,” said principal secretary of tourism department Atul Dallu.
He however refused to comment on Mirwaiz’s statement.
Speaking to Hindustan Times on June 19, the tourism minister had said that the department would also make efforts to attract foreign tourists including Israelis to the state and also persuade European Union to lift travel advisory on the state.
Officials say that Kashmir is witnessing a tourist boom and attracting international tourists would be the next step for the state. Though the tourist season has just begun, Kashmir has had five lakh tourists this year. Out of these, 17,000 are foreigners.
Another step in the direction is to attract tourists from Europe. The tourism department is planning to invite the European Union to visit Kashmir.
All European Union countries have issued travel advisories to its citizens cautioning them against visiting Kashmir since 1989.
Last year, Germany became the first European country to modify its travel advisory to Kashmir.