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27 Dec, 2008 06:01

Does terrorism make India a no-Goa destination?

As India recovers from last month's attack in Mumbai, fears of new attacks remain and popular tourist destinations are feeling the pinch. However, locals in Goa say there is nothing to worry about.

Most come and relax for a vacation but more and more are setting up permanent camp in the southern state of Goa.

After the Mumbai attacks, authorities issued warnings and, as a result, travel agencies reported a drop in bookings with flights still offering seats, despite it being peak season.

However, the locals say a strike on Goa is pretty much a mission impossible.

“First of all, Goa is a lot easier to monitor than Mumbai. The port there is huge, with cruiser ships, fishing boats, private yachts – it’s very hard to control. Mumbai is a huge city and here, it’s mostly fishing villages. The only big city is Panjim and there are almost no foreigners there, which means no reason for a terrorist strike,” said Dmitry Kobelev.

Kobelev used to run an anti-terrorism website in Moscow but has traded that life in for a sun-soaked one in India. He described the layout of the former Portuguese colony.

“The Portuguese built a dozen forts on the shore, because they needed to protect their spice plantations, which were as expensive as gold back then. So Goa was able to defend itself back then and can still do so now. The only airport in Goa is a military one, on loan for civilian use, and the waters and shorelines are also monitored by the military,” said Kobelev.

Authorities are not taking any risks, however. Warnings have been issued and beaches closed for parties during the holidays.

“We have to push the momentum in tourism, yet bring in all the controls of security. We have to mellow down our celebrations,” said Amitabh Kant, Indian Minister of Tourism.

Fortunately, maybe, for those in Goa, worries of terrorism seem only to be felt by those on the outside.