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Wireless Web reaches Kashmir

An elderly Kashmiri reads a newspaper near a cybercafe in Jammu.
An elderly Kashmiri reads a newspaper near a cybercafe in Jammu.

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Kashmir and Jammu (India)
Tourism and Leisure

SRINAGAR, India (Reuters) -- Two months ago, mobile phones were forbidden in tense Indian Kashmir. Now, anyone can wirelessly surf the Web from the houseboats and gondolas dotting the waters of its famous Dal Lake.

In a bid to woo back foreign tourists scared off by a bloody separatist rebellion, authorities have made the sprawling lake in the summer capital, Srinagar, the world's latest, and certainly one of its most unusual, Wireless Fidelity Wi-Fi "hotspots."

"This facility... [will] tap travelers who would like to remain connected to the rest of the world," Jammu and Kashmir state tourism chief Saleem Beig said Monday. "It goes a long way in sending the right kind of signals to tourists."

Wi-Fi allows users with laptops and other wireless gadgets to connect to the Internet through local access points, known as hotspots, set up by an Internet service provider.

Popular across much of Asia, where hotspots, with a range of a few hundred meters, include hotels, restaurants and city streets, Wi-Fi is only just taking off even in India's cities.

In Kashmir, authorities have long kept a tight leash on all communications in to make it harder for separatists to contact each other and for years refused to allow even limited mobile phone services in Srinagar and the winter capital, Jammu.

But getting tourists back, especially foreigners, is seen as vital to the economy and to restoring normal life.

More than a million tourists, almost half from abroad, flocked to the Kashmir's lakes, pine forests and its towering snow-tipped Himalayan peaks each year before a bloody Muslim rebellion against Indian rule broke out in 1989.

Copyright 2003 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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