India hits out at ‘disproportionate’ travel advisories

October 25th, 2011 - 8:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Oct 25 (IANS) India Tuesday objected to advisories issued by the US and other countries that warned of heightened possibility of terror attacks during the Diwali festival season, saying they were ?disproportionate.?

?We have conveyed to them that the language of these advisories is disproportionate. We will continue to impress upon them that the language should be proportionate and moderate,? Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told reporters when asked about his reaction to the travel advisories.

Five countries — the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — have issued advisories against travel to India during the festive season.

Mathai said that these countries are obliged under their legal systems to issue such advisories warning their citizens of the possibility of threats to their security. He added that the advisories were based on reports in the Indian media.

Mathai said that Tourism Minister Subodh Kant Sahay spoke to him about the travel advisories and expressed his objections to them. The tourism minister informed him that there has been an increase in the number of tourists to Jammu and Kashmir, he said.

In an advisory last week, the US embassy in New Delhi warned ?of the continued possibility of terrorist attacks throughout India”. It urged “citizens to pay particular attention to their personal security during the Indian holiday season”.

“In the past, terrorists have targeted markets, public transportation such as trains and public buses, religious sites, hotels, and restaurants,” it said.

In the past as well, these countries have issued travel advisories citing the heightened terror threat during the festival season.

Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed Tuesday said it was a routine advisory and would not impact the arrival of foreign tourists to India.

“My department has taken up the matter. These advisories do not affect the flow of foreign tourists to India because they are issued every six to 10 months. You can call them routine,” Ahmed told IANS.

“Issuing of advisory from different countries is not new. In the past also they did this only to defame our country,” Ahmed told a TV channel.

“This is a matter affecting ministry of external affairs and home ministry also,” he said, adding that the matter would be taken up with the ministries.

An estimate said hotels feared cancellations of around 10 to 15 percent of bookings if these advisories were not withdrawn.

The Travel Agents’ Association of India (TAAI) said it expected the advisories to be toned down.

“We have moved the tourism minister on the travel advisories and we expect it to be toned down or withdrawn by the end of the day,” TAAI chief representative Harkripal Singh told IANS.

Explaining the reason for issuing the advisories, he said: “The concern for human rights in countries like US and UK is much more than in Indian and southeast Asia.”

“The advisory is just a measure to cover up from being blamed in case of any untoward incidents in the capital during the festival season of Diwali. Suppose something happens, the governments of the respective countries can always tell the victims that they did not heed the advisory,” Singh said.

He said “contrary to perceptions of increased terror threat, for the first time in several years, Kashmir is facing a boom in tourism.”

“The number of tourists to Jammu and Kashmir has been the highest in the last 10 years,” the TAAI official said.

Navin Berry, the president of SATTE, India’s biggest tourism mart, said tourists these days were “matured and accepting”.

“The new tourist has accepted that terror could talk him any time, anywhere in the world. The modern tourist is also more involved with reality. Hence, the perceptions to advisories have changed,” Berry told IANS.

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