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India, China exchange notes on Kailash-Manasarovar route via Sikkim

Beijing : India and China on Sunday exchanged notes on modalities for opening the second route for people undertaking the Kailash-Manasarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim, expected to benefit Indian pilgrims. The route through Nathu La Pass will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses. "India-China exchange notes on modalities for additional route for Kailash Manasarovar Yatra in 2015," Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin tweeted. The notes were exchanged between officials of the two sides after visiting External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj held talks with her Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. Swaraj, on her maiden visit to China, had earlier in the day said opening of the new route would be a "big thing". 

Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised opening the new route to Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the former's maiden visit to New Delhi in September last year. The two sides had agreed to work closely to ensure smooth commencement of the pilgrimage through the new route. The only route - Lipulekh Pass - was badly damaged in the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013. The MEA takes more than 1,000 pilgrims a year in 18 batches involving a 22-day journey. The new route for which Prime Minister Narendra Modi made a strong pitch during his first meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil was regarded as a boon for elderly Indian citizens who could travel in buses in relative comfort though conditions in the Himalayan region with less oxygen levels still pose a challenge. Officials expect that the number of pilgrims could rise considerably once the new route is opened. China had invited Indian Ambassador Ashok K Kantha to Tibet in October to make preparations for the Yatris.

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