India opening Nathu La for pilgrims from June next year

India is preparing to allow its pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar area in Tibetan Autonomous Region of China through the Nathu La route in Sikkim from next year.

According to a Press Trust of India (PTI) report, the union and Sikkim governments were aiming at having the first batch of pilgrims visiting Kailash Mansarovar using the new route in June 2015.

India and China signed a bilateral agreement on Nathu La route on September 18. As per the agreement, Indian pilgrims can visit Kailash Mansarovar area through the Nathula route in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.

As the Lipulekh Pass route is extremely difficult, many Indian tourists come to Nepal and embark on Kailash Mansarovar area via Tatopani (Sindhupalchowk) or Hilsa (Humla) entry points.

According to PTI, two senior officials from India’s Ministry of External Affairs recently visited Sikkim to examine the state’s infrastructural preparedness. The officials have reportedly identified two places — 17th Mile and Sherathang – on the JN Road as acclimatization centers for the pilgrims, the news report stated.

The route through Nathu La will pass through Shigatse and then move toward Kailash-Mansarovar area. Through the new route, pilgrims can drive all the way to Kailash-Mansarovar.

Meanwhile, India is sending a team of officials to Kailash-Mansarovar via Nathu La Pass on a trial run in March next year.

The opening of new route could hamper business of Nepali trekking companies who send large number of Indian pilgrims to Kailash-Mansarovar via Tatopani and Hilsa points during June-August. It takes around eight days to travel to Kailash-Mansarovar via Nathu La. Form Nepali side, the tour can be completed in around 10 days.

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