| Indian troops hoisting the Tricolour on Point 4785 in the Tiger hill area in July 1999 during the Kargil war.
Jammu, Dec. 5: The Indian peaks in Kargil, which hogged the headlines three years ago as Indian forces fought a mini-war to push back Pakistani intruders, have been re-opened for foreign mountaineering expeditions.
Director-general of Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Mohammad Ashraf said: “We will start booking for the expeditions from now onwards.” The actual expeditions — in which foreign participation was allowed again after clearance from both the defence and foreign ministries — may start from May next year.
The peaks were open to Indians, “but there are hardly any (expeditions) from here”, Ashraf said. Before the skirmish, the icy peaks were a favourite with foreigners with most of the expeditions coming from Germany, Japan and France.
“This will be a great boost to Indian tourism, particularly that of Jammu and Kashmir,” the director-general said, recalling that the peaks of Nun Kun, Pinnacle and White Needle — famous peaks in the Kargil Himalayas — used to attract over a dozen expeditions every season. The highest was 25 expeditions, before militancy hit the state in 1990.
Nun, the most famous and challenging peak in the region, stands at a height of 7,135 metres and Kun at 7,187 metres. All the other peaks are less than 7,000 metres.
Interest in the mountains has remained high and the Indian Federation of Mountaineering has been receiving queries from foreigners as to when these peaks would be re-opened for them.
“Now we have good news to share with them that the mountaineering federation has cleared expeditions by foreigners,” said Ashraf. “We are hopeful of a good response, may be it will be over 20 expeditions this season,” he added.
Kashmir tourism stands to benefit from the move as it will draw more tourists to the region, Ashraf said. Bookings and other facilities are provided by the travel agents while the tourism department provides emergency services and keeps track of the tourists.