External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday flagged off the first batch of pilgrims for this year’s Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

Addressing a gathering on the occasion, he thanked China for promoting people to people exchange through its support of this yatra.

“I would like to recognise the support extended by the Government of China in organising the yatra. It’s an important step towards promoting people-to-people exchanges and strengthening friendly ties between the two countries,” said Jaishankar. He also thanked the state governments of Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Delhi for their support in the successful organisation of the ‘yatra’.

The Ministry of External Affairs organises the annual Yatra via two different routes – Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim). Thousands of devotees participate in the Yatra through a treacherous route that crosses territorial boundaries of India, Nepal and China.

According to the schedule this year, 18 batches will trek across the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand while 10 other batches will go via the Nathula route to Sikkim. Each batch comprises of 50 people.

While the Lipulekh route passes through a very mountainous area, the fully motorable Nathu La route that opened a few years ago requires minimum walking and will, therefore, help senior citizens participating in the yatra.