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July 9, 2012 11:19 pm

Israeli Backpackers Accused of Spying in India

avatar by Atara Arbesfeld

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The Vale of Kashmir, from Talmarg. Kashmir, India. Photo: Michael Petersen.

The Jammu-Kashmir area of India, a hotbed for the country’s local terrorist activity, is nevertheless a popular destination for Israeli tourists, leading one radical group to conclude that the visitors make the trip in order to spy for Israel, the Southeast Asian News Agency reported.

Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, leader of the separatist Hurriyat party in Srinagar, has cited a recent visit of a Kashmir government delegation to Tel Aviv as well as the arrival of numerous Israeli tourists as being tied to a secret plan of an Israeli invasion of the territory.

“We are not against tourists coming to Kashmir, but there definitely is some ulterior motive behind encouraging Israelis to visit the Valley,” he alleged, hinting at an association between the tourists and the Mossad.

The paranoia against Israeli backpackers is becoming widespread, to the extent that “even the moderates seem to be on the same page” according to a report from The Economic Times of India. Recent government seizure of properties used by locals for “illegal activities” has also been labelled as part of an Israeli invasion plot, according to a local Kashmir newspaper.

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In response to the allegations, NGO Friends Of Israel, based in Vadodara came out on Saturday denouncing Mirwaiz’s accusations. The organization’s general secretary Nikitin Contractor told the Times of India that the Hurriyat leader had       “no right to issue such a statement: the valley is not his property that he can ask government to restrict the entry of a particular community in the valley. It smells of contemptuous and communal thinking of his mind.”

Contractor continued by saying that although Mirwaiz visits many countries, including the United States, Israel has never requested for a ban on his admission.

Furthermore, Contractor added that Mirwaiz’s claim that Muslim countries do not allow entrance to Israelis “is a lie created to mislead people and seek cheap publicity,” and he added that numerous Muslim students that he knew from India had made trips to Israel and were “very happy in our Kibbutz (a collective community in Israel) program.”

Stating that no religious group should be discriminated against, Contractor concluded: “The Indian government should not succumb to pressure … and put any restriction on any tourist anywhere,”

This is not the first time Israelis faced danger in Kashmir. In 1991 Islamic terrorists from the area kidnapped and killed an Israeli tourist on a houseboat. That same year, diplomatic relations between the Indian and the Israeli governments were established due to support of the Indian National Congress (INC) party.

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