Srinagar: The Malaysian Government is interested in direct air connectivity between Kuala Lumpur and Srinagar and will take all measures to make it possible, Nor Azam Bin Muhammad Idries, the deputy high commissioner of Malaysia to India said here on Saturday.
However, he hastened to add that necessary permission to start the direct flight lies with Indian authorities.
Azam, who was in Kashmir for his first ever visit and left Srinagar on Saturday after spending three days here said in an interview with Greater Kashmir that direct air connectivity between the two regions will boost tourist influx from South-East Asia to Kashmir and the Malaysian Government is working on it.
“More than 13,000 Malaysian tourists have visited Kashmir this year so far. After my visit I am quite upbeat to work harder on this direct flight so that tourist influx from Malaysia to the valley gets more impetus,” said Azam, who also took part in the Kashmir Autumn FAM Tour 2018 oraganised by the tourism department.
Malaysia accounts for second highest foreign tourist arrivals to Kashmir after Thailand.
“Large number of Kashmiris studying and working in Malaysia will also be benefitted by the direct flight. But the ball lies in the court of Government of India to provide slots for airlines to start a direct flight,” the deputy high commissioner said.
Azam said at present the direct flights between Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur to tourist destinations such as Jaipur and Amritsar are quite productive for tourism.
“We have a slot of 225 flights operating between Malaysia and India per week at present. Firstly the government of India has to increase this quota and secondly the airlines too have to take an initiative. It also depends on their business interests to a great extent,” Azam said.
After 2005, when it was accorded ‘international airport’ status, the only international flights that operate from Srinagar airport are Hajj flights. Tourism players here have been demanding for direct international flights from Srinagar to South East Asian countries and Middle East for a long time.
Commenting on the role of media to promote Kashmir as an international tourist destination, Azam said “negative” coverage of national media in India on Kashmir has done a lot of damage to tourism here. He said the religious commonality between Malaysia and Kashmir is an important factor.
“I was very sceptical before coming here as my perception on Kashmir was quite negative. But the warm hospitality and scenic beauty of the Valley has left me quite literally speechless and am all praises for Kashmir,” Azam said. “The moment I landed at Srinagar Airport, I saw a hoarding which read ‘Kashmir- The Paradise on Earth’. I was quite touched that I have actually landed in Kashmir. The beauty of Kashmir has made me believe more in this saying”, Azam said.
Azam who apart from Srinagar, visited Gulmarg said golf offers a great scope for tourism in Kashmir adding that Malaysian Ambassador to India will also be visiting the valley next month. “People in Malaysia are optimistic about Kashmir as they feel quite safe here but now our government will encourage more people to visit Kashmir. Organising more promotional events will help to create a word of mouth publicity for Kashmir tourism. I hope J&K government takes benefit of the interest among Malaysian and other South-East Asian countries in the Valley and takes steps to encourage prospective tourists to actually experience Kashmir,” Azam said.
Azam said there is need for improving tourist infrastructure in the Valley in order to provide basic facilities to holidaymaker. “There is a lot such as student exchange and increased handicraft export from Valley which can be provided a boost. I hope direct air connectivity is the first platform to all these plans to get fulfilled,” Azam said.