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Mansarovar yatra: China barring Indian pilgrims to pass through Nathu La indicates strained New Delhi-Beijing ties

Days after China refused entry to around 50 Indian pilgrims who were to travel to Kailash Mansarovar through the Nathu La pass, officials of nodal agency Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam told The Times of India that the pilgrimage is proceeding smoothly through the other route in Uttarakhand.

The yatra through Uttrakhand is considered tougher of the two trekking routes set by the Ministry of External Affairs to Kailash Mansarovar.

 Mansarovar yatra: China barring Indian pilgrims to pass through Nathu La indicates strained New Delhi-Beijing ties

Representational image. Reuters

The development comes as China accused India of seriously damaging border peace. Beijing further warned New Delhi on Wednesday that future visits of its pilgrims will depend on whether it will "correct its errors".

Before the warning, China had lodged protests in Beijing and New Delhi against Indian soldiers' "trespassing" into its territory, The Hindustan Times reported. The foreign ministry in a statement said the entry to pilgrims has been denied because of "security considerations" and "in light of" the border stand-off in the Sikkim section.

The standoff started when the People's Liberation Army accused the Indian military of stopping the construction of a road in what it claims to be China’s "sovereign territory" in the Sikkim section of the India-China border. China has claimed that since it opened the Nathu La pass for Indian pilgrims in 2015, it has tried its best to provide great conveniences to the Indian pilgrims.

The first pilgrims who undertook the journey via the Nathu La pass were offered white scarves at the pass as a token of the renewed ties between Beijing and New Delhi, reported Livemint.

A number of things seem to have changed since then. Two years later, the standoff between the two countries seems to indicate a deteriorating bilateral relation and fresh problems between the two nations. As The Wire points out, the development comes amid tensions between the two countries over a host of issues, including the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and India's Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) bid.

An ORF article says that Nathu La is at the fulcrum of China's proposed economic belt and the old silk route revival plans. India's opposition to the One Belt One Road initiative has further led to strained ties between the two countries and might have pushed Beijing towards taking this step.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's trip to the United States and the growing bonhomie between the two nations might also have triggered the Chinese reaction. China has also expressed concerns about the new air cargo corridor between India and Afghanistan, which opened last week, as an attempt by India to counter Beijing's economic corridor.

The Hindu also quoted some sources as saying that China's closure of the Nathu La pass should be seen as a diplomatic message. Jayadeva Ranade, president, Centre for China Analysis and Strategy, told The Hindu that the development was significant. "I would say that because of the prolonged face-off, and the kind of articles appearing in the Chinese media. Global Times has put out at least three strong pieces on this. It all happens at a time when the relations are already under strain and also during the prime minister’s visit to the US. This is one warning shot."

Back home, Congress is demanding a comprehensive statement from Modi and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj over the denial of entry to pilgrims."This is a serious issue and we would want that Modi and Swaraj take up the issue with their Chinese counterparts and ensure the Mansarovar yatra route is opened for Shiv bhakts (followers of Lord Shiva)," AICC chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala said.

Meanwhile the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) on Wednesday urged people to boycott Chinese products as a mark of protest against China's move. VHP joint general secretary Surendra Kumar Jain alleged that China had its eye on Tibet, which it had been "illegally" occupying.

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Updated Date: Jun 29, 2017 14:39:33 IST

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