Over half-a-century after it was closed following the 1962 Sino-India war, Chinese Ambassador to India Le Yucheng will receive the first batch of Indian pilgrims on Kailash Mansarovar Yatra on Monday in Tibet, marking the opening of the new route through the Nathu La pass.
Yucheng, who arrived in Gangtok, Sikkim’s capital, on Friday evening, on Sunday crossed over to Tibet where he will be staying overnight before receiving the pilgrims tomorrow, official sources said.
Earlier in the day, Yucheng called on Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling and briefed him about the arrangements made for receiving the Yatris in the Tibet Autonomous Region, they said.
During the meeting, the Chinese Ambassador recalled the visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to China this year which was preceeded by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s trip to India in September last year, they said.
Yucheng, who crossed over to Tibet through Nathu La pass with four other Chinese officials, would be staying overnight in a tourist hut and will receive 39 Indian pilgrims, besides BJP MP Tarun Vijay and his wife in the morning. One pilgrim will not make it as he forgot to carry his passport.
The new route through the Himalayan pass will facilitate more comfortable travel for the Indian pilgrims, especially the elderly, by buses compared to the existing route via Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.
This batch will complete Manasarovar Parikrama (circumambulation) on June 27 and ‘Kailash Parikrama’, 16,600 feet above sea level, on June 28 before returning to the Indian side on July three.
The journey will be mainly covered through bus with only a little of trekking.
Kailash Mansarovar is believed to be the seat of Hindu god Shiva. Pilgrims have to travel to high altitudes through inhospitable and rugged terrain. Hundreds go on the pilgrimage every year, with a part of the journey overseen by Chinese authorities.
Nathu La, which means "Mountain pass with listening ears", was closed after 1962 Sino-Indian war. The area had witnessed week-long skirmishes between the Indian and Chinese Army.
After remaining closed for all activities, the pass was opened as a trading junction in 2006. Traders from both sides gathered in the No-Man’s Land and sold their items.
However, due to limited number of items including goat and sheep skin, raw silk, china clay, butter, common salt, cycles, tea, cigarette, the trading point has been receiving a lukewarm response from traders of the two countries.