Ready to reopen Nathu La route, unable to share Brahmaputra data, says China
China is ready to discuss with India the reopening of the Nathu La route to Indian pilgrims headed for Kailash Mansarovar but unable to share data on Brahmaputra river.Updated: Sep 12, 2017 22:35 IST
China on Tuesday said it is prepared to discuss the reopening of the Nathu La route for Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar shrine, which was closed by Beijing soon after the military standoff at Doklam began in mid-June.
During a regular news briefing, foreign ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang emphasised the efforts that China has initiated to ease the journey of Indians pilgrims. He said China is also ready to discuss other matters connected to the pilgrimage with India.
However, Geng also said China would be unable to share hydrological data from the upper reaches of Brahmaputra river, before it flows into India, as a data collection centre in the Tibet Autonomous Region is being renovated.
Beijing sounded more amenable to talking about reopening the Nathu La route though the narrow window for Indian pilgrims to head to Tibet closes this month because of inclement weather.
“For a long time, China has made great efforts against all odds to provide necessary convenience to Indian pilgrims. And according to the agreement reached between two state leaders and based on the fact that the western sector of the India-China boundary has been recognised by the two sides, China used to open the pass to Indian pilgrims and this operation has been very well,” Geng said.
Referring to the Doklam standoff, he added: “However in this June, Indian troops illegally crossed the border, which lead to tensions in the border areas of the two sides. So the pass was suspended due to this consideration.
“So China seems ready to keep communication with the Indian side in regard to the opening of the pass and other issues concerning the pilgrimage by the Indians.”
Hundreds of Indian pilgrims were stranded at the border with China in Sikkim in the third week of June when Chinese border troops refused to allow them to use the Nathu La route to go to Mount Kailash.
China denied entry to them citing damage to roads, forcing many pilgrims to return to Sikkim’s capital Gangtok.
China initially refused to state why the pilgrims were stopped but the reason for doing so – the military impasse on Doklam plateau – emerged soon after.
At least seven batches of 50 pilgrims each were to cross over to Tibet through Nathu La, on their way to Mount Kailash, held sacred by Buddhists, Hindus and Jains.
The Nathu La route was inaugurated in June 2015. Till then, 18 batches of 60 Indians undertook the journey every year through Lipu Lekh pass between May and September.
The new route – administered by the Tibet Autonomous Region government on the Chinese side – reduced the trekking time and allowed pilgrims to make the journey by bus.
Spokesperson Geng wasn’t optimistic about the sharing of data on the Brahmaputra river.
“For a long time, we have conducted cooperation on the river data with the Indian side. But due to the upgrading and renovation of the relevant station on the Chinese side, now we do not have the conditions to collect the relevant statistics of the river,” he said.
“We will later consider that,” Geng said while responding to a question about when China will provide the data, a practice that was reportedly suspended during the Doklam standoff.
The standoff, which ended last month with both sides pulling their troops back on the plateau, was seen as one of the most serious confrontations between India and China in recent decades.