Get on the Kailash Mansarovar route

Eleven rounds of border talks between India and China have taken place, and among the issues on the table is the opening of new routes for the Kailash Mansarovar yatra and trade. Of late, there has been increasing demand from Ladakh to open the route to Kailash Mansarovar through the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China. Since, two routes have been already opened in the J&K region the Poonch-Rawalkot and Uri-Muzaffarabad ones respectively it is only natural to expect the government to open routes in the Ladakh region as well.

This is important for several reasons. One, politically, it will balance the efforts made by New Delhi to make India's borders soft in J&K. While the Poonch-Rawalkot and Uri-Muzaffarabad routes are now functional for the general public, Ladakh continues to languish without connectivity. True, there are no divided families along the LAC, but that cannot be the only reason for such initiatives. Locals in Ladakh rightly ask that if Nathu La can be opened for trade, why not the Mansarovar route for tourism?

Two, opening the Mansarovar route will benefit Ladakh immensely in economic terms. With a marginal agricultural output and no industrial opportunities, every family here is dependent on the tourism industry and in no other part of India has nature as much hold on tourism as it has in Ladakh. The two land routes to Ladakh via the mighty Zoji La and Manali are closed for half the year. The air route is again dependent on weather conditions and cancellation of flights. The fact that newspapers do not reach Ladakh daily is symbolic of how cut-off this region is from the rest of India. Given this, efforts need to be taken to improve tourist prospects in Ladakh and the Kailash Mansarovar route is key to achieving this. Being invested with religious significance for both Hindus and Buddhists, opening the route will expand tourism significantly. An estimated 40,000 tourists visit Ladakh every year. Locals believe opening this route will double, even triple, this inflow.

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