Hu's visit: J&K hopes hang in balance

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the issue of the opening of this road as also of Bumla in Northeast with Hu Jintao.

india Updated: Nov 22, 2006 14:58 IST
Arun Joshi

The high hopes pinned on Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit have been replaced by a tinge of disappointment in Jammu and Kashmir. The prospect of opening of Leh-Kailash Mansarover road was regarded high, but at the end of the Indo-Chinese deliberations; there is nothing concrete on the issue to sustain the optimism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Kailash-Mansarover road from the cold desert region, if opened, would offer 365-day-a-year opening for the region that remains closed for six months because of heavy snowfall during winters on the two major routes - Leh-Manali and Leh-Srinagar. Whereas, the road to China has no such difficulties to confront.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh discussed the issue of the opening of this road as also of Bumla in Northeast with Hu Jintao. But there were no promises of their opening in the near future.

"This doesn't signify anything," said P Stobdan, an expert on China and Director of Strategic and Regional Studies, University of Jammu. "Successive Prime Ministers (of India) have raised this issue in the past with China," he added.

"But there has been no response," Stobdan observed.

There are many reasons why China should agree to open Demchok route connecting Ladakh with Tibet: Firstly, the economy would get a boost with increased tourist traffic and trade. And finally, it would signify opening of Buddhist spiritual route of ancient times. Buddhist Bikshus had travelled on this route from Tibet to attend the fourth world Buddhist Council in Harwan, Srinagar.

But Beijing puts a strong argument against opening the route. Strong Tibetan connections of the Buddhist population of Ladakh are seen as a hurdle. Many Ladakhis respect Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Buddhists.

Dalai Lama visits Leh quite often.

M Ashraf, reputed historian of Jammu and Kashmir, said, "With changing times Beijing should display change in its attitude. The opening of the road is a route to opening of economy. There shouldn't be any hesitation on this count."

Stobdan, however, felt that there was a need for Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad to be more active on this front, too.

He said that Azad should have pushed hard on this issue with the Centre. "Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Gegong Apang and Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling are doing more diplomacy, while Azad is tied up with internal situation.

He should be active on the diplomatic front too," Stobdan said, underlining the need for Jammu and Kashmir political leadership to have a broader picture of the region and its economic needs.

First Published: Nov 22, 2006 14:58 IST