After US advisory, India asserts it’s completely safe (Second Lead)

June 4th, 2009 - 8:21 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram New Delhi, June 4 (IANS) India Thursday asserted that it was “completely safe” and would ensure security for foreign tourists, after the US warned its citizens of the threat of terrorism throughout the country.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram said: “India is a completely safe country. India is a safe place, it is safer than any other country in the world. Thousands of tourists come to India and we look forward to welcoming them.”

He reacted after the US embassy posted a message urging its citizens living in or travelling to India to practise good security, including maintaining a heightened situational awareness and low profile. It said terror attacks were a serious and growing threat.

Defence Minister A.K. Antony, whose home state Kerala is a hot favourite with tourists, said: “India is the safest country.”

Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed said at a function here: “We will ensure the security of our foreign guests. A lot of internal and external security measures (are being taken) for the safety of tourists.”

Ahmed said although after the Mumbai terror attack of Nov 26 in which over 170 people were killed, the number of tourists coming to India had fallen, it was now slowly going up.

“Ever since the Mumbai blasts the number of tourists visiting India had decreased. But since May this year the numbers have started going up,” he told reporters.

About 5.08 million tourists visited India in 2007, recording a growth of 14.56 percent. But since January, there has been a fall in numbers. There was a 17.6 percent dip recorded that month with 487,262 foreign tourists coming to the country.

However, in April, some improvement was witnessed with 370,756 tourists visiting India - a dip of just 3.5 percent.

The US advisory posted on the website Tuesday specifically asked Americans in India to be vigilant at all times, monitor local news reports and vary their routes and times while carrying out daily activities.

“Americans should consider the level of security present when visiting public places, including religious sites, or choosing hotels, restaurants, entertainment and recreation venues,” the advisory warned.

“As terror attacks are a serious and growing threat, US citizens are urged to always practice good security, including maintaining a heightened situational awareness and a low profile.

“The media attention of and public reaction to the Mumbai attack could prompt other terrorist incidents. Future attacks may also target public places frequented by Westerners, including in large cities and tourist areas such as Goa.

“The US mission is concerned that increased political tension between Pakistan and India may further complicate travel in areas near their already-sensitive border.

“In addition, the Department of Defense has increased its security requirements for all its employees visiting India.”

Chidambaram said the ministry of external affairs would be asked to speak to the US about the matter.

A US embassy official told IANS that the advisory was routine. “This is a routine advisory and it has just been updated,” he said.

Secretary Tourism Sujit Banerjee said the advisory is not of a “serious” nature. “The ministry of external affairs and the home ministry is talking to them on this issue.”

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