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Open new way to Kailash, Advani to China

Leader of Opposition LK Advani tells this to China's special representative Dai Bingguo, reports Shekhar Iyer.
None | By Shekhar Iyer, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JAN 20, 2007 02:09 AM IST

Leader of Opposition LK Advani has told China's special representative Dai Bingguo who was in New Delhi for the border talks to consider India's long-pending request for opening up an alternative land route to Mount Kailash Mansarovar via Ladakh.

Dai had called on Advani on Wednesday to discuss the border issue when the latter seized the opportunity to take up the issue of the pilgrimage to Mount Kailash - Mansasrovar through easier means.

Advani said the new route could be opened "without prejudice to the stand taken by either side on the border issue." The BJP leader said the new route would see more people to people contact as the villages on China's side are close by.

Advani said the current route is either via Nepal or through the Lipulekh pass in the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand and takes 17 to 18 days.

Hundreds of Hindu, Buddhist and Jain devotees trek the mountain path every year to the twin shrines. The yatra season starts in early June and the last batch starts the pilgrimage as late as the end of August.

Advani told the visiting Chinese Deputy Foreign Minister that the main attraction is that the longest leg of the journey, Delhi-Leh, can be covered through aircraft. From there, the pilgrims can go along the Indus to Damchok by road to reach the border. The road is good and since the mountains there are fairly stable and the region hardly receives any rain, the risk of landslides is far less.

As such, the journey can be conducted within a day. In any case, it is always better to have two routes for a yatra which evokes such strong religious sentiments among the Indians.

Significantly, the Vajpayee government had taken up the issue with Beijing after a proposal from the Jammu and Kashmir government.

Ladakh officials say the opening of this route has historical significance. Before construction of Leh-Srinagar or Leh-Manali road, Ladakah remained landlocked and cut-off from the rest of the country.

The only natural link available to people of Ladakh was to Tibet via Demchok, Chushul, Phobrang — the areas that now fall in Changthang sub-division of Leh. For centuries Demjok has been used for trade between Ladakh and Tibet.

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