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Now tourism sector on terror list

There is an addition to the list of likely targets of Pakistan-based terrorist groups: Tourists, reports Aloke Tikku.

india Updated: Oct 29, 2006 21:26 IST

Vital installations, communication links, places of worship, commercial, industrial and scientific centres. There is an addition to this list of potential targets of Pakistan-based terrorist groups: Tourists.

A Union Home Ministry official said the list of potential targets was expanded in view of recent intelligence inputs that the tourism sector, especially in a state like Goa, was on the radar of terror groups.

Over the last five years, India's foreign tourist arrivals are estimated to have grown at 75 per cent, increasing foreign exchange earnings by 122 per cent and creating nearly 3 million additional jobs annually.

But India's share in world tourism is a measly 0.57 per cent. A home ministry official said the objective was to gradually weaken international confidence and create an atmosphere of pervasive terror that would dampen the country's capacity to attract foreign investment.

"The moment you target foreigners, it has an impact on foreign perceptions at an escalated level," said Ajai Sahni, executive director of the Institute for Conflict Management.

But this is not unique, a direct attack on financial centre, a direct attack on industry like multi-national companies would have comparable consequences, he added.

A Goa police officer said the intelligence inputs were shared in detail with police chief BS Brar when he was in Delhi last week and advised on preventive measures.

Last year, Goa had tourists arriving in 700-chartered flights; this year the number of incoming chartered flights is expected to increase by almost 100 flights.

Goa is also going to play host to the high-profile International Film Festival of India beginning 23 November.

The inputs are being taken into account as arrangements for the film festival are chalked out. The police officer added that a strong emphasis on basic policing was usually the only insurance cover against unidentified threats.

"We have never had a terror incident," the officer said, confident that they would be able to keep the state out of the list of those that have suffered terror attacks.

Sahni, however, emphasised that it was important to keep a sense of proportion. "India is not uniquely threatened, there is not a part of the world which is not threatened.

People factor in global risk and compare it with Indian risk. A single incident is not going to alter that," he said.

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First Published: Oct 29, 2006 21:26 IST