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China agreeable, Nepal aims for a billion pilgrims to Tibet’s Mt Kailash

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(TibetanReview.net, Oct06’23) – Nepal plans to facilitate the travel of one billion pilgrims through its territory to the holy sites in western Tibet of Mt Kailash and Lake Mansarovar once a planned agreement with China is in place, reported the PTI news agency Oct 5, citing minister for foreign affairs Narayan Prakash Saud.

Situated in Ngari prefecture of what is now Tibet Autonomous Region under Chinese rule, the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage is considered the most sacred by Hindus across the world. The two natural sacrosanct places are also revered by Buddhists, Jains, and Tibet’s indigenous Bonpo faith.

China has so far refused to open the shortest and safest route for pilgrims from India for these two holy sites from Demchok in Ladakh, the shortest and the most convenient from the country. Currently, Indians who want to save time and escape the arduous trek through the only two officially permitted and organized routes prefer to travel via Nepal through private operators.

Besides, post the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns, China opened the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage this year. However, the massive hike in fees and multiple restrictions on visas, especially for Indian pilgrims, meant that practically the Yatra did not happen, the report said.

On the other hand, China has said a total of 14 entry points from Nepal could be opened as against the three existing traditional ones.

“Nepal can provide the shortest route to reach Kailash Mansarovar for international travellers,” Saud has told PTI in an interview at his residence Bhaisepati in Lalitpur district after returning from an eight-day visit to China and parts of Tibet under Chinese rule.

How soon the new route will open remains a matter of conjecture. Past cross-border agreements and projects have not been much of a success. Besides, none of the Nepal-China Trans-Himalayan Multi-Dimensional Connectivity Network projects under China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have taken off since the framework agreement on it was signed in May 2017.

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Saud was part of a delegation led by Nepal prime minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’ that returned from China on Sep 30. The delegation visited the Kailash Mansarovar on Sep 28 to carry out, as Saud described, “an on-site study of the area to create a suitable environment for millions of Hindu pilgrims from around the world, including India, to visit Kailash Mansarovar.”

“Our high-level delegation has conducted studies for this purpose. In the coming days, we will hold a discussion with the Chinese authorities to promote tourism in the Kailash area via Nepal. We have already asked the Chinese government to open all three routes and the government of China is positive regarding the matter,” Saud has said.

The three existing traditional routes from Nepal to reach the Kailash Mansarovar area are Hilsa of Humla district, Khori of Bajhang and Tinker of Darchula district, all in western Nepal.

The Mansarovar Lake lies around 160 kilometres northwest of Simikot, the headquarters of Humla district.

Saud has said that as against only three entry points for pilgrims for the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, China has proposed 14 entry points between Nepal and Tibet for the purpose of non-pilgrimage travellers and transporting goods and “we are studying the matter.”

“After conducting the study, we need to develop infrastructure, motorable roads and hospitality facilities. If we can properly manage this, we can open the route for around 1 billion Hindus from all over the world, which will be a milestone for the promotion of tourism in this region,” Saud has said.

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