US advisory warns travelers to exercise increased caution in India



Increasing bilateral ties and overt warmth with India notwithstanding, the United States in its recent travel advisory has warned its denizens to “exercise increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism.” The advisory also cautions travelers to keep away from the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir (except the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh) due to terrorism and civil unrest and not to venture within 10 km of the India-Pakistan border due to the potential for armed conflict.

In its Country Summary section, the advisory states: Indian authorities report rape as one of the fastest growing crimes in India. Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations. “Due to the fluid nature of the threat, all US government travelers to states with Naxalite activity must receive special authorization from the US consulate responsible for the area to be visited. US officials traveling only to the capital cities in these states do not need prior authorization.”

“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities. The US government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in rural areas from eastern Maharashtra and northern Telangana through western West Bengal as US government employees must obtain special authorization to travel to these areas,” it adds.

The US has also warned that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has determined India has a moderate level of COVID-19.

Even after these warnings, if you do decide to travel to India, then the US has advised you not to travel alone, “particularly if you are a woman”. While asking travelers to review their personal security plans and remain alert to their surroundings.

“Enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive alerts and make it easier to locate you in an emergency. Follow the Department of State on Facebook and Twitter, review the Country Security Report for India, and prepare a contingency plan for emergency situations,” the advisory added.

The list of ‘Do Not Travel’ destinations in India is quite long and seems to cover most parts of the country: Jammu and Kashmir, the India-Pakistan border, north-eastern states, and central and eastern India.

The list takes off with the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir: “Terrorist attacks and violent civil unrest are possible in the union territory of Jammu and Kashmir. Avoid all travel to this state (with the exception of visits to the eastern Ladakh region and its capital, Leh). 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.”

Next on the cautionary list is India-Pakistan Border: “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 Attari, 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 U.S. citizens residing in India may apply for a Pakistani visa in India. Otherwise, apply for a Pakistani visa in your country of residence before traveling to India.”

The advisory on north-eastern states: “Incidents of violence by ethnic insurgent groups, including bombings of buses, trains, rail lines, and markets, occur occasionally in the northeast. US government employees at the US Embassy and Consulates in India are prohibited from traveling to the states of Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Manipur without special authorization from the US Consulate General in Kolkata.”

The ’Do Not Travel’ caution for central and eastern parts of India includes: “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 official