Skip to main content

Gandhi hails arrival of international flights to Kashmir

  • Story Highlights
  • Kashmir's Srinagar airport opens to international traffic
  • Part of an effort to encourage tourism and trade.
  • Sonia Gandhi hails opening, saying people are sick of violence
  • Next Article in World »
From Mukhtar Ahmad
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font

SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir (CNN) -- The Srinagar airport opened Saturday to international traffic, part of an effort to encourage tourism and trade.

The airport, which has been recently upgraded to international standards, received an Air India flight from Dubai Saturday.

The event was made a high-profile occasion, with India's ruling United Progressive Alliance Chairwoman Sonia Gandhi attending along with a number of Indian ministers and officials.

The airport, which is under high security, has been recently equipped with escalators, central heating and air conditioning, and an x-ray baggage inspection system.

There will be flight between Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Srinagar every Saturday, Praful Patil, India's civil aviation minister, told the Times of India.

Gandhi took advantage of the event to address Kashmiri separatists, asking them "to learn a lesson from the faith the people of Kashmir recently showed in democracy."

"The enthusiastic and overwhelming participation of people in the recently held assembly polls should serve as an eye opener to the people who believe in violence and separatism," she said.

Saturday's event coincided with the extension of the Kashmir rail line to connect its north and south regions.

Officials are hoping the international flights will boost tourist traffic to the area.

"With the inauguration of direct international flights to Srinagar, the arrival of foreign tourists in Kashmir is sure to go up. This is a big development in the history of the state's tourism," houseboat owner Manzoor Wangnoo said.

The state government has been making efforts to woo international tourists to Kashmir, but has been hamstrung by adverse travel advisories issued by foreign countries.

Kashmir has been in the grip of a violent separatist campaign for nearly 20 years. Official counts say that 43,000 have been killed. Human rights groups and non-governmental organizations often place the figure at twice that.

  • E-mail
  • Save
  • Print