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J&K has high hopes on Hu's visit

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 12:19 IST
Arun Joshi
Highlight Story

Chinese President Hu Jinato's visit to Delhi on Monday is a sign of hope for the people of Jammu and Kashmir, who are looking forward to the opening of a historical cross-border trade route to China from their land.

They are confident that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will deliver on his promise.

During his visit to Leh in 2005, Singh had promised that he would take up the matter of the opening of the trade route from Leh to China whenever he would get an opportunity to talk to his Chinese counterpart.

"Now, we see that the opportunity has come for the prime minister to take up the issue with Hu Jinato," says Tsering Dorjay, Chief Executive Councillor of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC).

The council is a mini-government of the cold desert region.

They are hopeful that Hu Jinato, who is Beijing's face of changing times and a pursuer of economic liberalisation, will give a thought to the re-opening of Leh-Kailash Mansarover route.

Ladakhis have desired the re-opening of this route for years.

For them, such a re-opening would bring tourists and boost trade and economy from both the sides, since in the recent years Jammu and Kashmir, as rest of the country, has started sending tourists to China.

"Moreover, western Tibet is so far away from mainland China that it is economically viable to re-open this route. This is free of the problems that Nathula Pass faces," Dorjay said.

The re-opening of Leh-Kailash Mansarover route depends on nod of Chinese leadership.

Ladakhis believe that Jinato can do it. The Jammu and Kashmir government has convinced the Centre about the usefulness of the opening of the route, since the days of Farooq Abdullah’s Chief Minister ship in the state.

That re-opening of the road that would ferry tourists and pilgrims to Kailsah Mansarover in two days. They also argue that if the Nathula Pass can be thrown open between Sikkim and China, then why not this one.

"The visit of Chinese president is an opportunity. In this modern-day world when barriers are collapsing, keeping a historical route closed makes no sense," says Ghulam Hassan Mir, former tourism minister who had taken some initiatives on this count during his term as minister.

"This move would offer benefits to the Chinese as well. Chinese tourists can travel to Kashmir via this route," says M Ashraf, former director general of Tourism. He is an authority on Himalayan tourism.

Kashmir has two routes connecting China – one through Karkoram Pass in the Nubra Valley and second through Leh–Demchuk on the Indian side to Kailash Mansarover.

"Kashmir was a branch of the Silk Route and both the history and geography testify to that,"  says Ashraf, who is also a historian. Traders used to take salt, tea and spices from here, while they would get silk from China.

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