The United States Saturday issued a travel warning for its citizens visiting India due to “terrorism and civil unrest” in the country. It also asked Americans not to go within 10 kilometres of the border with Pakistan “due to the potential for armed conflict.”
The level-2 travel alert comes in the wake of tensions between India and Pakistan, that escalated after the Jaish-e-Mohammad carried out a terrorist attack on a CRPF vehicle in Pulwama on February 14, killing 40 personnel.
White House bureau chief Steve Herman said on Twitter Saturday: “US issues Level 2 travel alert for #India — “exercise increased caution,” warning Americans to not visit most of Jammu and Kashmir due to “terrorism and civil unrest” and not go within 10 km of the border with #Pakistan “due to the potential for armed conflict.”
Asserting that some areas have increased risk, the US asked its citizens to exercise increased caution in India due to “crime and terrorism”. However, the country has made an exception for tourists visiting the eastern Ladakh region and its capital Leh.
A Level 2 alert suggests ‘exercise increased caution’, Level 3 means ‘reconsider travel’. Level 1 advises travellers to exercise normal precaution, while Level 4 recommends “Do Not Travel”.
The advisory stated that “terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities.”
Citing rape cases as another reason for the advisory, the US government said, “Indian authorities report rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations.”
Referring to J&K, the advisory said, “Sporadic violence occurs particularly along the Line of Control (LOC) separating India and Pakistan, and in tourist destinations in the Kashmir Valley: Srinagar, Gulmarg, and Pahalgam. The Indian government prohibits foreign tourists from visiting certain areas along the LOC.”
It further said, “India and Pakistan maintain a strong military presence on both sides of the border. The only official India-Pakistan border crossing point for persons who are not citizens of India or Pakistan is in the state of Punjab between Atari, India, and Wagah, Pakistan. The border crossing is usually open, but confirm the current status of the border crossing prior to commencing travel. A Pakistani visa is required to enter Pakistan. Only US citizens residing in India may apply for a Pakistani visa in India. Otherwise, apply for a Pakistani visa in your country of residence before travelling to India.”
The advisory also said that US government employees are prohibited from visiting some of the northeastern states in India. “Incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including bombings of buses, trains, rail lines, and markets, occur occasionally in the northeast. US government employees are prohibited from travelling to the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Manipur without special authorization from the U.S. Consulate General in Kolkata,” it said.
Expressing their concerns over the “presence of Maoists groups in India”, the US government said, “Maoist extremist groups, or ‘Naxalites’, are active in a large swath of India from eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal, particularly in rural parts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand and on the borders of Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal, and Odisha. The Naxalites have conducted frequent terrorist attacks on local police, paramilitary forces, and government officials.”
In February, just after the deadly Pulwama attack, the US had urged its citizens to reconsider their travel to Pakistan mainly due to terrorism and risks to civil aviation operating within or near the country. “Reconsider travel to Pakistan due to terrorism,” the State Department had said.
It had asked Americans not to travel to Balochistan province and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, including the former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), due to terrorism, and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir area due to terrorism and the potential for armed conflict.