The US State Department has responded to a violent escalation in fighting along the border between nuclear rivals India and Pakistan with a travel warning that also warns women against a troubling rise in sexual violence.
India and Pakistan, bitter rivals for decades, have been fighting inside Kashmir, a disputed border region which each country administers in part. The fighting kicked off after a February 16 terror attack killed 40 Indian security forces.
Air battles, shelling, and ground fighting have followed sporadically since that attack, with planes being shot down and Pakistan temporarily closing its airspace.
Now, the State Department has called for “increased caution in India due to crime and terrorism,” and for US citizens to stay at least 10 kilometres away from the disputed border region, and not to enter Kashmir at all.
“Terrorists may attack with little or no warning, targeting tourist locations, transportation hubs, markets/shopping malls, and government facilities,” State warned.
State also cautioned about the larger India-Pakistan border, ethnic insurgent groups in the northeastern states of India, and Maoist extremist groups in Central and Eastern India.
Across India, the world’s largest democracy, State cautioned that “rape is one of the fastest growing crimes in India.”
“Violent crime, such as sexual assault, has occurred at tourist sites and in other locations,” the warning continued.
“If you decide to travel to India, do not travel alone, particularly if you are a woman,” the statement read, linking to a guide for women travellers.
Across the border in Pakistan, the State Department urges visitors to reconsider travel to anywhere in the country but has not revised this recommendation to reflect recent fighting.