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Kashmir: Paradise Lost

Travelers have journeyed to Kashmir for as long as anyone can remember. In the 16th century, the mogul rulers of India, liked it so much, they built a summer home with a view of the mountains and spectacular gardens that endure to this day.

The British built houseboats on Dal lake in the capital of Kashmir as a way to get around Kashmiri laws prohibiting foreigners from owning property here.

Gulam Butt owns eight of these floating throwbacks to the Victorian era--a sanctuary sought out by dignitaries and celebrities.

"You can see this rogue's gallery of some of the prominent people who have stayed here...." said Butt.

"They wanted to visit Kashmir, because they had heard so much about Kashmir. It was just like a paradise on earth."

It's not paradise anymore. Increasing tensions between India and Pakistan over who has historic right to Kashmir have made it the flash point of their nuclear arms race.

A nine-year battle between Indian troops and Kashmiri rebels has turned the capital city of Srinagar into an armed camp. And while foreigners can visit the fabled Himalayas, they are prohibited from spending the night.

The bottom fell out of the tourist industry here three years ago when six westerners who were trekking in these mountains were kidnapped by what the Indian army claimed were Kashmiri militants. One was found a few weeks later, handcuffed and decapitated. Four others are still missing and presumed dead. Only one--an American--got out alive.

That was the last time Fayaz Malik saw any tourists in his village.

The village, once a jumping off point for hikers and mountain climbers is now a ghost town. The hotels and guest houses are boarded up. The local economy is in shambles.

"Sometimes we don't have food, sometimes we don't have clothes--sometimes we don't have money to buy medicines," said Milik.

Things aren't likely to change anytime soon. The tensions between India and Pakistan could well ignite a nuclear war. And as long as Kashmir is caught in the crosshairs it will remain a paradise lost.

For the full report, click above.

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