China on Tuesday said it is ready for talks to reopen the Nathu La pass for Indian pilgrims to Kailash Mansarovar, which it had closed in mid-June over the military standoff at Doklam. “China is ready to keep communication with the Indian side in regard to opening of the pass and other issues concerning the pilgrimage by Indians,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said in Islamabad.
While the over two-month standoff at Doklam was resolved last month, the pass through which many Indian pilgrims go to Kailash Mansarovar in China’s Tibet remained shut. The Nathu La pass, the second route for Indian pilgrims was opened in 2015 by China. The new route is shorter than the one through Lipulekh pass.
“For a long time, China has made great efforts against all odds to provide necessary convenience to Indian pilgrims,” Geng said.
“And according to the agreement reached between two state leaders (Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi) and the fact that the western sector of the India-China boundary has been recognised by the two sides, China used to open the pass to the Indian pilgrims and this operation has gone very well,” Geng said.
“However in this June, Indian troops illegally crossed the border, which led to tensions in the border areas of the two sides,” he added.
“So the pass was suspended due to this consideration.” The military of both sides were locked in an over two-month stand-off at Doklam in the Sikkim section of the India-China boundary, at the tri-junction of India-China-Bhutan.
It began when the Indian Army on June 16 halted a road construction by China’s People’s Liberation Army at Doka La in the area. China in retaliation stopped the entry of Indian pilgrims via the Nathu La pass.
The Doklam region is also very close to India’s arterial corridor which connects its northeast with the rest of the country.