In a gesture that is meant to rekindle ancient bonds, and build new bridges, China is expected to announce the opening of a new safe route for Indians making a pilgrimage to Kailash and Mansarovar in Tibet. The announcement is likely to be made during the forthcoming visit by China’s President Xi Jinping to India later the month.
The new route, if opened, will go through the Nathu La border point in Sikkim, and is considered a comparatively easier route to the ones currently being used. The existing route through Uttarakand and Nepal involves heavy-tracking through gruelling terrain at altitudes of up to 19,500 feet.
The new route will allow pilgrims to travel from Nathu La to Shigatse in Tibet from where they can take vans and buses up to Mansorovar and Kailash directly.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi had requested President Xi to make the new routes available for Indian pilgrims during a meeting at the margins of the BRICS summit in Forteleza in July, 2014.
Indian pilgrims are a major contributors to the area’s tourism industry. In 2013, China welcomed over 14,000 pilgrims; the numbers, however, dropped after floods wreaked havoc in northern India.
Over the last few years, visitors have been positive about China’s efforts to develop infrastructure of the area. Chinese officials have suggested that lodging and boarding facilities for pilgrims have been enhanced with new hotels and beds made available.
“Indians pilgrimage to Tibet is an important content of bilateral relations. China’s willingness is in accordance with the spirit of the agreement which has been signed by both parties, provide convenience for pilgrims pilgrimage and to further promote non-governmental exchanges between the two countries, and make efforts together to enhance the level of Sino-Indian relations,” said China’s foreign ministry.
Opening of the new route is a signal that Beijing is keen to enhance relations with the new government in Delhi. China is leaving no stone unturned in making the September visit of President Xi Jinping a great success.
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