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'Road revival will be psychological'

Revival of Leh-Kailsah Mansarover route would prove a big opening for J&K people, writes Arun Joshi.

india Updated: Nov 20, 2006 14:21 IST
Arun Joshi

If Chinese President Hu Jintao agrees with Indian stand to revive Leh-Kailsah Mansarover route, the people of land–locked Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir would get a big "psychological opening”.

"President Jintao should seize this opportunity," said M Ashraf, a historian of modern time Jammu and Kashmir.  "India is already willing to do that."

Ashraf who has travelled through the length and breadth of the entire region  and has documented the history in a scientific manner, told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview on Monday, why the re-opening of this ancient route is important for psychological, economic and global warming reasons for both India and China.

First, he said that because of the closure of their connection - through Leh Srinagar and Leh-Manali land routes - to rest of the world for more than six months a year, the people are living in a "closed atmosphere." More than 20 feet snowfall in Zojilla pass on Srinagar road and Rohtang pass on Manali side during winter keeps Ladakh closed for six months a year.

"There is a psychological siege. It needs to be  lifted," he said.

And the only route which can stay open 365-days a year - Leh Kailsah Mansarover is not through for travel because it is not having political clearance.

Nowadays, Hindu pilgrims visit Kailash Mansarover lake via Uttranchal, a three-week hazardous trek through rocky boulders. From Leh side it is two-way journey and in a week’s time one is back after the pilgrimage on a four-wheeler.

While Delhi wants it to re-open, Beijing has reservations.

"Jinato must put aside these reservations and open a new chapter fitting with his image of economic liberalization and a reformer," Ashraf said. "The treaty of Leh of 1842 can offer him a way out," Ashraf said.

The treaty signed between the representatives of Emperor of China and first Dogra ruler Maharaja Gulab Singh says: "We will respect the boundary of Laddakh and the countries bordering on it as fixed since olden times. We will carry on the trade in Shawl, Pasham and Tea as before by way of Laddakh."

Based on his study of the region, people of Ladakh, he said once these route opens, he is certain that at least 60 to 70 per cent of psychological siege would be  lifted.

Reminding Beijing of the usefulness of the Kailash-Mansarover route in terms of  attracting Hindu pilgrims round–the-year as also  visits of tourists from the two countries, Ashraf noted that this makes a strong economic sense. While China is reaching out to Africa, and other distant lands to boost its economy, it has opportunities lying next door.

"China and India can pool their resources  in studying the climate change. It is a major threat to the world. Since both India and China are the two Asian giants in race to top of the world, they also need to cooperate in climate change. In this field, they should not be competitors but collaborators by cooperating with each other."

Conducting a joint scientific study on receding of glaciers as far as the source of river Indus is concerned, he said, can make a beginning. Its source is Kailash Mansarover.

Ashraf said that President Jintao has an opportunity before him. "We hope he seizes it."