The Kashmir valley. Photo courtesy of Harsha Narasimhamurthy / CC BY 2.0
Helicopter tourism now will be offered for the first time in Kashmir to boost the local economy and to improve public perceptions of that Northwestern Indian region—long the object of a three-country dispute.
The Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department has been granted approval to offer helicopter tours over the city of Srinagar—summer capital of that state and the largest city in the Kashmir Valley—as well as helicopter transport to and from the Gulmarg ski resort in north Kashmir and in the town of Pahalgam in south Kashmir.
The Kashmir region is part of a decades-long territory dispute between India, Pakistan and China. All three countries occupy and have claimed ownership rights to parts of Jammu and Kashmir, and Gulmarg is within miles of the "Line of Control" between the militaries of India and Pakistan. The state currently is dealing with an insurgency between the Indian Government and Kashmiri nationalists and separatists.
Nevertheless, the region depends heavily on revenue from up- and mid-scale tourists, and local officials hope the helicopter services will boost that economy. On Nov. 22, Chief Minister Mufti Muhammad Sayeed and other officials attended the maiden sortie of one service at Srinagar Airport. According to the Greater Kashmir Media Group, the Chief Minister “referred to the several measures taken by the government in Kashmir’s resurgence as mainstream travel destination, in particular the one related to the serious challenge posed by negative perception about travelling to Kashmir.” Such measures included speaking with the country’s top news broadcasters.