External Affairs Minister Dr. S Jaishankar on Tuesday flagged-off the first batch of 58 pilgrims for this year's Kailash Mansarovar Yatra. Wishing them the best for their pilgrimage, he nonetheless wisely cautioned them to be careful on account of the conditions they are likely to experience and the tricky terrain, and advised cohesiveness.
Emphasising on the need of having internal solidarity Dr. S Jaishankar said, " You all are collectively embarking on a journey thus you must be together as a cohesive group. The pilgrimage is beyond what you can imagine and is a safe and spiritually-fulfilling journey."
The Ministry of External Affairs enables the annual Yatra via two different routes - Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim). Thousands of devotees participate each year through the routes that cross the territorial boundaries of India, Nepal, and China.
According to the schedule this year, 18 batches will trek across the Lipulekh pass in Uttarakhand while 10 other batches will go via the Nathula route to Sikkim. Each batch comprises 50 people. While the Liplekh route passes through a very mountainous area, the fully motorable Nathu La route that opened a few years ago requires minimum walking and will, therefore, help senior citizens participating in the yatra.
The minister, while announcing the commencement of the yatra for the Lipulekh route, said that the interest in the pilgrimage, which started in 1981, has "increased significantly" over the years.
"Let me take this opportunity, to put on record the support and cooperation we have received from many other ministries and agencies, particulary from the state governments of Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Delhi in successful organisation of the yatra," he said.
Besides support from governments of Uttarakhand, Delhi, and Sikkim, the yatra is organised with the cooperation of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police. The Kumaon Mandal Vikas Nigam, Sikkim Tourism Development Corporation and their associated organisations provide logistical support and facilities for the pilgrims in India.
Dr. S Jaishankar, a career diplomat with extensive experience in bilateral relations with China, US, and Pakistan, took charge of the foreign ministry on May 31 a day after being sworn-in last month. He was India's ambassador to China between 2009 and 2013. While issuing an address on the occasion, the minister also thanked the government of China for promoting people-to-people exchange through their support of the yatra.
"I would like to recognise the support extended by the Government of China in organising the yatra, it's an important step towards promoting people to people exchanges.
(With ANI inputs)