New tunnel eases travel in troubled Indian Kashmir

SRINAGAR: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has opened an 11-kilometer (7-mile) tunnel through the Himalayan terrain to help ease travel on a highway linking the troubled Kashmir valley with the rest of India.

Modi drove in an open jeep through the all-weather route on Sunday. It is expected to help trade and tourism in the region, with the highway blocked sometimes for hours and even days due to snow, rain and landslides.

It took engineers six years to build the tunnel, which cost 25 billion rupees ($382 million).

However, separatist leaders fighting for the region's independence from India or its merger with Pakistan shut businesses and public transport in the region on Sunday and said the construction of tunnels and roads would not succeed in appeasing them.