NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi is said to be extremely keen to be part of this year’s Kailash Mansarovar Yatra to Tibet, and could even take the new motorable route from the Nathu-La border point in Sikkim to Shigatse, the second biggest city in Tibet, from where pilgrims can travel comfortably to Mansarovar and Kailash using the modern highway.
If he does so, Modi will become the first Indian Prime Minister to undertake a pilgrimage while in office.
In order to make the pilgrimage easier than it is through the traditional arduous route, the Modi government had taken up the matter with China for opening a new route.
The Chinese side had reciprocated and had indicated Beijing’s willingness to open the new route.
Though it is longer in terms of distance, it will cut down the time spent by pilgrims by half, in contrast to the current route, much of which they have to traverse on foot.
The Prime Minister is also likely to pay an official visit to China sometime later this year, the dates for which might be finalised during the visit of external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, who begins a four-day trip to China on Saturday.
During her visit, Swaraj will hold talks on “issues of concern” with Chinese counterpart Wang Yi and attend the Russia-India-China meeting.
Her visit is soon after the Chinese state-run media openly criticised US President Barack Obama’s just-concluded visit to India. Home minister Rajnath Singh also said Wednesday that India is a “worshipper of peace” and that “China should understand this”.
On the Kailash-Mansarovar yatra, the PM had actively pitched for the new route, given the terrain difficulties of the existing routes through Uttarakhand and Nepal, which involve an arduous journey.
Swaraj’s visit, that comes days after Obama’s trip to India, will focus on “bilateral, regional and global issues of concern to both sides”, the MEA said in a statement.
Noting both sides attach “great importance” to Swaraj’s visit, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a briefing in Beijing that bilateral ties between the two largest developing countries and major emerging economies were progressing in a “sound and stable way”.
She added: “Our cooperation has made some headway. We are enhancing mutual political trust and practical cooperation in various fields.
“We are in sound coordination and cooperation in regional and international issues.”
The minister will also attend the RIC meeting with her Chinese and Russian counterparts.
Swaraj’s visit is soon after the Chinese media described Obama’s visit to New Delhi as “superficial rapprochement” while talking of differences between India and the US on key issues.
China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said in a commentary that the “shortened three-day visit is more symbolic than pragmatic, given the long-standing division between the two giants, which may be as huge as the distance between them”.
In what appeared to be a clear snub to China, and against the backdrop of China exerting its influence in the South China Sea, Obama had said in New Delhi on Tuesday that freedom of navigation must be upheld in the Asia-Pacific and welcomed a greater role for India.
“External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj will pay an official visit to the People’s Republic of China from February 1 to 3 at the invitation of the foreign minister of China, Mr Wang Yi.
“The two ministers will discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of concern to both sides.
“(She) will inaugurate the 2nd India-China High-Level Media Forum and attend the launch of Visit India Year during her stay in Beijing.
“(She) will also participate in the 13th foreign ministers’ meeting of Russia-India-China Trilateral, and will meet Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the meeting,” the MEA said on Wednesday.
Asserting it had no territorial ambitions, India said on Wednesday it wants to resolve all issues with China with “honesty” and asked it to come forward to end the “perceptional differences” over the border.
“There is a perceptional difference along the Sino-Indian border. China says here is the border. We say no, here is the border,” the home minister said in Uttar Pradesh after inaugurating an ITBP battalion camp,” according to news agency reports from Kanpur. “India wants a peaceful resolution of all disputes… We have been trying to resolve the border problem. China should come forward,” Singh was quoted as saying.
“We are not expansionist. India’s history says that we have never been expansionist. We have never attacked any country. We are worshippers of peace. China should understand this. We want to resolve all issues with honesty,” the Home Minister said – From The Asian Age