New Delhi: With the summer unrest badly hurting tourism season in Kashmir, the state government is focussing on promoting border tourism to attract more visitors to the state.
Several places on the border with Pakistan will be developed as tourism destinations on the lines of the Wagah border in Punjab, according to Minister of State for Tourism of J&K Priya Sethi.
"We want to project the International Border in J&K as the border of peace and bonhomie. The initiative has a huge potential," she said at an event here.
The state government has set aside Rs 500 crore for the project, the minister said.
"The government has plans to develop the border areas in Uri, Rajouri and Chakan-da-Bagh in Poonch among others. The Union Ministry of Tourism has given its nod to the project. We will soon discuss it with the Border Security Force," said J&K's Tourism Secretary Farooq A Shah.
"Under Phase I, which will be completed by 2018, the government will spend more than Rs 50 crore on developing facilities for tourists in a few places we have identified for this purpose," he added.
Kashmir valley's tourism season this year was badly hit during the summer months by the unrest triggered by the killing of Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani in an encounter with security forces on July 8.
Sethi said the PDP-BJP government aims at sending a message of peace and cultural harmony across the country through people visiting the frontiers. The efforts will build momentum for cross-border tourism.
"A tourist facilitation centre, a theme park, a theatre, a walkway, eateries and cafeterias have come up in Suchetgarh border belt in RS Pura tehsil of Jammu district. Cultural programmes and local food will lift up spirits of tourists," she said.
Work is on to develop infrastructure for 3D shows based on the history of the area and the IB. The government also intends to conduct beating retreat and flag ceremony at Suchetgarh border.
"We want to give people a feel of life on the frontier. Being at the border in itself is thrilling. The feeling cannot be compared with anything else," she said.
Sethi said the state came out strong after the "five-month-long unrest thanks to the tourism industry. We extend a warm-hearted invitation to tourists and pilgrims to visit the Valley and help it revive its economy".
Jammu and Kashmir has gone through a lot of turmoil, but it has time and again come up trumps in difficult situations with the support of the countrymen, she said.
Suchetgarh, which was an important trading point between Sialkot and Jammu before partition, records close to a thousand tourist footfalls daily, he said.
"The main thrust of the project is to attract more and more visitors. We want to utilise the vast potential in the tourism sector in J&K," he said.
The tourism sector can generate employment for 70 percent population of Jammu and Kashmir, which has flourishing transport, horticulture and handicraft industries, he said urging the tourism partners to lend priority to the state.