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China refuses to open Nathu-la gate for Indian pilgrims

Chinese soldiers guard the Nathu La mountain pass near its border with India. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)
Chinese soldiers guard the Nathu La mountain pass near its border with India. (Photo courtesy: Reuters)

(TibetanReview.net, Jun23, 2017) – About 50 Indian pilgrims waiting for nearly a week to cross into occupied Tibet for pilgrimage to Kailash-Manasarovar have been forced to return to Sikkim’s capital Gangtok after China refused to open the gate, reported ndtv.com Jun 22. Chinese President Xi Jinping had, in 2015, committed to open the new route from Sikkim’s In Nathu-la border pass to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi had pointed out that the terrain of the existing routes through the Indian state of Uttarakhand and Nepal were difficult due to dangers of flood and avalanches.

The Kailash-Manasarovar sites are located in western Tibet’s Ngari Prefecture and are particularly sacred to Hindus, and also to Jains and Buddhists.

The Uttarakhand route is shorter. But pilgrims have to undertake much of the journey on foot and it was ravaged by floods in the hill state in 2013. The newly agreed Nathu-la route, though longer, is more convenient, for the pilgrims could use Chinese buses for their journey after crossing into Tibet.

China allows only a fixed number of pilgrims per year to the pilgrimage sites whose elevation is about 6,500 metres above mean sea level. About 1,400 devotees are to undertake the pilgrimage this year. Most of them will use the tough Uttarakhand route; about 350 will attempt the journey through Sikkim, the report said.

China has claimed, though there have been no reports, that there had been major landslides as its reason for not letting in the pilgrims.

Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling was to personally brief India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh in New Delhi on the development.

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