If you are planning to visit Sikkim anytime soon, or a pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar (located in Tibet) you may want to cross off Nathu La pass from your itinerary and rethink your route. China has shut down the Nathu La pass in Sikkim and denied entry to Kailash Manasoravar pilgrims. This is what we know. By Devyani Nighoskar
The stand-off between the Indian and Chinese troops on June 27 at the Sikkim border has triggered tension along the Sino-Indian frontier. If you have missed the news, we put it in the simplest terms:
China recently accused Indian troops of ‘crossing the boundary’ and stopping a Chinese road construction in Sikkim, demanding their immediate withdrawal. Some Indian media reports also suggest that the People’s Liberation Army of China had crossed the border into Indian territory and destroyed bunkers. The result of this confusion has led to a complete shutdown of the scenic Nathu La Pass. Pilgrims trekking to Kailash Mansarovar were denied entry between June 19 and 23 at Nathu La, and had to return to Gangtok. They had to instead take the older route in Lipulkeh, Uttarakhand, through which 1,080 of the total 1,430 pilgrims were expected to travel.
Nathu La Pass sits at 4,545 metres between Yadong County in Xigaze Prefecture, Tibet’s Autonomous Region, and Sikkim. This pass was made by the two countries in 2015 for Kailash pilgrims. Prior to the construction of this pass, the journey was only possible through the Lipu Pass, in Uttarakhand which is long, uneven, and quite hectic. The Nathu La route enabled pilgrims to travel the 1500 km long stretch from Nathu La to Kailash by bus.
In a media briefing in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, Lu Kang said; “We have lodged solemn representations in Beijing and New Delhi to elaborate on our solemn position. Our position to uphold our territorial sovereignty is unwavering. We hope the Indian side can work with China in the same direction and immediately withdraw the personnel who have overstepped and trespassed into Chinese border.”
While it is largely unclear and ambiguous as to what exactly happened amidst the cold, desolate, barren mountains at the unmarked India-Bhutan-Tibet tri-junction; it certainly has put the spotlight on the border. The blame game however, continues, making bilateral ties weaker and more complex. There has been no news yet, as to when the Nathu La pass will re-open for the tourists and the pilgrims again.