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Lack of tourism causes Kashmir's economy to go in in drains.

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    Lack of tourism causes Kashmir's economy to go in in drains.

    Kashmir's fabled houseboats tell tale of region's hard times

    SRINAGAR, India. The fabled houseboats on Lake Dal are empty. It's an indication of the hard times which have fallen on Kashmir.

    Indian tourists know Kashmir isn't as dangerous as its reputation, but the almost daily explosions and clashes along the border with Pakistan have turned the tourism industry into one of the war's first casualties.

    The Kashmir issue
    Boat workers sometimes have to wait days to ferry someone across the lake.

    "In two days we stopped business. No tourists, nothing," says one boat worker.

    Kashmir has been wracked by an Islamic insurrection which India says Pakistan has instigated. The nations, both of which claim Kashmir, have fought three wars over the region in the past 52 years.

    The land and crafts have always been the cache of Kashmir. There is no heavy industry in the region. Kashmir's famous textiles are mostly exported, and most of the money goes to middlemen outside the region.

    There are almost no jobs in the area, apart from the government and tourism. The real money has traditionally been in western tourism. Now, the government says it is out of money and it doesn't appear western tourists will soon return.

    Bashir Amir makes about $1 a day selling kabobs. It is the only job he could find. He has to support five others on his small income.

    "On these 50 rupees, I have to take care of my father, my mother, my wife and my two children. My father is unemployed. It's very difficult," he said.

    Sometimes boat workers wait days to ferry someone across the lake

    Businesses close early as clashes continue

    But there is an occasional ray of hope.

    One young entrepreneur returned to Kashmir earlier in the year and opened a restaurant and pool hall, one of the few places open at night, and just a small indicator of new investment in the region.

    "There are lots of people making money from Kashmir outside of Kashmir, so why can't Kashmiris do it?" he asked.

    if only the indians would get the hell out.

    [This message has been edited by sabah (edited December 06, 1999).]