From Bloomberg News
By Andrew MacAskill and Bibhudatta Pradhan - Aug 15, 2012 2:31 PM ET
Hotel owner Wahid Malik drives his ball down the fairway at the Royal Springs Golf Course in Indian Kashmir, taking a break from hosting tourists flocking to the disputed region guarded by half a million soldiers and police.
Malik plans to build a new guest house to cash in on a tourism boom that has seen the number of visitors double to a record 2 million in the past year, to an area over which nuclear-armed India and Pakistan have fought two wars. With an anti-Indian insurgency causing the fewest deaths since it began in 1989, five-star hotels are full and the cost of flights to Kashmir’s summer capital of Srinagar is up 40 percent.
“Our hope is that a few years from now, Kashmir will no longer be known as a place of tanks and troops,” said Malik, 50, whose hotel is overlooked by 2,700-meter (8,800-feet) Himalayan peaks and served as a residence for the army for 15 years until 2005. “No one who lived through the dark days wants a return.”
The tourist rush promises jobs in a region where half the population aged between 18 and 30 are out of work. Getting more young Kashmiris into full-time employment can further lower violence and aid peace moves along the subcontinent’s most intractable fault line, where fighting between militants and India’s army has killed 50,000 people over more than two decades.