100 Himalayan peaks open for foreign tourists for the first time


NEW DELHI – India has for the first time opened nearly 100 high-altitude Himalayan peaks in India-controlled Kashmir, once dubbed the Switzerland of the east, for foreign tourists, local media quoted a tourism official as saying Saturday.

The move by the Indian government to allow foreign climbers follows a significant decline in violence by insurgent groups in the region since India and Pakistan started a peace process in 2004, PTI cited the Kashmiri tourism official Farooq Ahmed Shah, as saying.

“We are optimistic that the decision will give a big boost to tourism and attract more and more foreign tourists,” he said.

The peaks to be opened for trekking and mountaineering are situated at an altitude ranging from 3,000 meters (9,842 feet) to 7,800 meters (25,590 feet), mostly in the Eastern Karakoram mountain range of Ladakh — one of the three regions of the northern part of India-controlled Kashmir.

The Indian Defence Ministry, which had earlier expressed reservation on throwing open the peaks, has given its nod, according to Nawang Rigzin Jora, Kashmir’s Tourism Minister.

About 60 percent of the revenues of Kashmir comes from tourism. The region was once called as mecca for climbers, skiers, honeymooners and film-makers.