A group of Indian pilgrims on the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra will cross over to China via a new route through Nathu La on Monday, over half a century after the strategic mountain pass was closed following the 1962 border war between the two countries.
The Chinese ambassador to India, Le Yucheng, will receive the Indian pilgrims in Tibet on Monday. Le, who arrived in Sikkim's capital Gangtok on Saturday evening, crossed over to Tibet on Sunday.
Le called on Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling and briefed him on arrangements made for receiving the pilgrims in Tibet Autonomous Region, official sources said.
During the meeting, Le recalled Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to China this year, which was preceeded by Chinese President Xi Jinping's trip to India last September, they said.
Le, who travelled to Tibet through Nathu La with four more Chinese officials, would stay overnight in a tourist hut and receive 39 Indian pilgrims, BJP MP Tarun Vijay and his wife on Monday morning.
The new route through the Himalayan pass will facilitate more comfortable travel by bus for Indian pilgrims, especially the elderly, compared to the existing route via Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand. The journey will involve little trekking.
This group of pilgrims will complete the Manasarovar Parikrama (circumambulation) on June 27 and Kailash Parikrama at 16,600 feet above sea level on June 28 before returning on July 3.
Kailash Mansarovar is believed to be the seat of 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 the 1962 war. The area had witnessed week-long skirmishes between Indian and Chinese troops.
After remaining closed for all activities, the pass was opened as a trading junction in 2006. Traders from both sides gathered in no-man's land and sold their items.
The trading point has received a lukewarm response from traders of the two countries because of the limited number of items on offer, including goat and sheep skin, raw silk, china clay, butter, salt, cycles, tea and cigarettes.