When it comes to sniping about Pakistan, or wrestling with would-be separatists in Kashmir, the Indian authorities present an image of a land under siege by terrorists -- the "snakes" in Pakistan's backyard, according to Hillary Clinton. But when it comes to tourism.... Well, that's another matter.
That's why Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna took umbrage at the decision by five countries -- Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States -- to warn their citizens against traveling to India during the Diwali season. Maybe there's a risk of a terrorist attack. Maybe it's higher than normal (though I have to say I have never known one of these travel advisories to represent real intelligence, in either meaning of the word). But it's just not fair to try to scare people out of celebrating Diwali.
Think it's better to be safe than sorry? Why not issue a travel advisory for New York then? Or Las Vegas? Or for that matter Oklahoma City. Bad things happen everywhere, if as Aussie PM Kevin Rudd told Krishna, such advisories are "routine" advice and "we do not have any information of any specific threat to share with India," as NDTV reports.
That said, though, can you really have it both ways? (At least one country said it issued its advisory based on similar warnings issued by India itself).
According to another report on the travel advisory flap, India cited the tourism boom in Jammu & Kashmir as evidence that everything is hunky dory, noting that the troubled region this summer recorded its highest number of tourists in the last 25 years (most of them Indian). But at the very same time that J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah is using that same argument -- namely, that attacks by militants have fallen to a new low -- to lobby for the removal of a hated law that grants the military virtual immunity from prosecution from human rights violations in the state, hawks in the defense ministry and armed forces are calling attention to a sudden burst of violence this week.
The Times of India reports that four alleged militant attacks on security forces on Tuesday have injected new vigor into the military's insistence that the hated Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) must be retained, despite Abdullah's call for its removal in many areas of the state. More troubling, some members of Abdullah's National Conference party are claiming that the attacks were likely staged by the army itself, the paper said.
The army termed those charges the "most preposterous and bizarre statement ever made," saying, "The Army does not get involved in such politicking and this does not deserve attention or comment," according to the newspaper.
But while that's probably true, it certainly suggests that India has its wires crossed somewhere about whether it's really at DefCon 5 or not.