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Ramadan Ceasefire gives boost to tourism in Kashmir

Firdous Hassan

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By Firdous Hassan

Srinagar, May 29: Kashmir Valley has been witnessing an increase in the footfall of the tourists New Delhi announced ceasefire for the month of Ramadan.
The government, on May 10, appealed for the ceasefire following an All Party Meeting held here.
New Delhi subsequently accepted the appeal.
The tourism players said the flow of visitors from various states has started to increase.
“We would receive very less tourists from Maharashtra prior to the ceasefire announcement. But now, the people from the states are coming and even confirming bookings for the upcoming months. An equal number of bookings requests are coming from Gujarat and south-Indian states,” said Farooq Kuthoo, General Secretary Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK).
He said his company alone has seen an increase of about 30 per cent in the booking during this month.
“The news has sent a good signal across India. There has not been much violence so far in this month due to which tourists feel safe for visiting here. We hope such peaceful situation to prevail ahead, which will improve the economic condition of people,” Kuthoo said.
Another tour operator, Umar Ahmad said the flow of tourists from countries like Malaysia and Thailand has also gone up.
“People from Thailand and Malaysia preferred Kashmir as a destination even during the worst times. Now when the atmosphere is relatively peaceful, tourists from these places have started to arrive in groups,” he said.
Amid this improvement in tourist bookings, the increase in the airfare to the valley, however, is unnerving the tourism-players, who fear that it could divert them to other places.
Currently, the airfare from New Delhi to Srinagar has soared by more than 70 percent.
President Travel Agents Association of Kashmir (TAAK), Ibrahim Siah, said the hike in airfare makes many tourists to change their plans for Kashmir.
“It has been a decade now that we protest against the undue hike by the airline companies. As soon as they see tourists visiting in huge number to the valley, their immediate response is to hike the air-ticket prices,” he said.
Director, Tourism, Mahmood Ahmad Shah, told The Kashmir Monitor the ceasefire for Ramadan has created a “positive atmosphere” for the tourists in the valley.
“It created a positive atmosphere all over the valley. There are no encounters and considering it tourists come in large number to explore valley. The calms should prevail in future as well so that more visitors visit here,” he said.

 
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Time for talks over, world must act now: PM

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New Delhi, Feb 18: The Pulwama attack which claimed the lives of 49 CRPF men shows that the time to hold talks on “terrorism” is over and there is an urgent need to unite against such elements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.

The Prime Minister, who was holding talks with Argentina President Mauricio Macri, said dithering to take action against militants and their supporters will be like encouraging militancy.

“Brutal attack in Pulwama proves that time for talks have passed. Now the entire world needs to unite against ‘terrorism’ and its supporters and take strong actions,” PM said.

 

President of Argentina Mauricio Macri said, “I would like to convey my condolences to the victims of the cruel attack (Pulwama) perpetrated just a few days ago. We condemn every kind of terrorist attack. I am truly pleased to be able to working together to fight this scourge on mankind.”

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Cross LoC trade, bus service suspended

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Feb 18: The cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan via Poonch has been suspended in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed last Thursday.
“Since the incident, no truck was allowed to cross the Line of control hence affecting the trade,” an official said.
He added that Poonch-Rawalakot cross-LoC bus service too has been suspended till further orders.
President, Cross LoC trade Union, Pawan Anand told The Kashmir Monitor that 60 trucks are stranded at trade centre (Chakan Da Bagh).
“We got orders to suspend the trade,” he said.
Pawan said that at least they have endured more than 4 crore of losses due to the trade suspension.
He added that most of the trucks are loaded with grapes, tomato, banana, tamarind and ser (zeera).
Besides Poonch, the cross-LoC trade also takes place through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in Uri.
However, DC Baramulla, Nasir Ahmad Naqash, confirmed that Uri has not received any order for trade suspension yet.

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MBS conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan: Saudi vows to ‘de-escalate’ India-Pakistan tension

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Islamabad, Feb 18: Saudi Arabia vowed to “de-escalate” rising tensions between Pakistan and India during a high-profile summit in Islamabad Monday as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prepares to travel from Islamabad to New Delhi.
The kingdom’s foreign minister spoke at a press conference in Islamabad as Pakistan recalled its envoy from Delhi for “consultations”, the latest development in a fresh diplomatic crisis between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Delhi has vowed to retaliate after a suicide blast which killed over 40 Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir on Thursday, the deadliest attack in Kashmir in recent decade.
The attack has sparked widespread calls in India for action against Pakistan.
“Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, neighboring countries, and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
The pledge came as the crown prince, widely known as “MBS”, prepared to head for India later Monday, at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Pakistan.
India is garnering diplomatic support after the attack and has vowed to “isolate” Pakistan diplomatically in the international community, saying it has “incontrovertible evidence” of Islamabad’s role.
Pakistan has rejected the allegations.
Meanwhile, Pakistan President Arif Alvi on Monday conferred the country’s highest civil award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — on Saudi Crown Prince.
Mohammad bin Salman was honoured due to his “outstanding support for reinvigorating Pak-Saudi bilateral relationship”, Dawn reported.
Following the Pakistan president’s speech, the Saudi crown prince, as per Dawn, addressed the audience. “I was honoured to meet the president of Pakistan. I thank you for honouring me with Pakistan’s highest award.
“The brotherly relationship between the kingdom and Pakistan focus on the principle of Islamic solidarity. It is a model to be emulated by other nations. Our [countries’ relationship] go back 67 years that witnessed continuous development that rendered itself beneficial for both countries.
“The founding fathers for both countries established these relations on the principles of truthfulness, common understanding and mutual respect that go back to the first days of the establishment of Pakistan, post-World War 2.
“Our Pakistani brothers participated truthfully and effectively in the great development project that Saudi Arabia witnessed, especially the enlargement project of Masjid-e-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabwi. More than 2 million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and are contributing to the development of both the countries.
“I wish all the best to the president and the prime minister in the service of this country and its people.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Saudi crown prince said his goodbyes to the Pakistan president and members of the federal cabinet before leaving for Nur Khan Airbase. As was the case when he had arrived, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan personally drove the car carrying the Saudi crown prince.
On Sunday, MBS signed $20 billion in investment deals with cash-strapped Islamabad and vowed to free thousands of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi custody.

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