With Olympic torch in Tibet, China axes Indian pilgrim batchesMay 20th, 2008 - 5:49 pm ICT by admin
New Delhi, May 20 (IANS)) The first two batches of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra have been cancelled, with China indicating that it would not be ready to “receive” pilgrims as long as the Olympic torch is in Tibet. This comes as an embarrassment for the Indian government which had announced May 7 that the pilgrimage will go on “as scheduled”, adding that the “government has begun preparations for this year’s Yatra along with China”.
Though the Chinese authorities had informed Indian officials in March about “the difficulties”, serious negotiations in this regard had begun only about two weeks ago, official sources said.
The government had to back down and cancel the first two batches after it failed to convince the Chinese.
“The Government of People’s Republic of China conveyed to the Ministry of External Affairs that on account of domestic reasons they would not be in a position to receive pilgrims before June 21, 2008,” said foreign ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna Tuesday.
The domestic reason is the Olympic torch relay in Tibet, which is currently paused for three-days of mourning for the victims of last week’s earthquake in China’s Sichuan province.
Earlier, May 8, a Tibetan mountaineer took the Olympic torch to the summit of the world’s highest mountain, Everest.
The first two batches of the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra have now been cancelled, and the Yatra will begin June 13 with batch number three.
“The Ministry is continuing its efforts with the Government of People’s Republic of China to accommodate the pilgrims of the Batch numbers 1 and 2 in later batches,” added Sarna.
The Kailash Mansarovar yatra is conducted for four months between June and September, when 16 batches with 60 Indian pilgrims each travel to the remote mountain and lake inside Tibet, which is worshipped by Hindus as the abode of Lord Shiva.