BEIJING: China is building a wide range of infrastructure to increase the flow of Indian pilgrims visiting Mansarovar in Tibet. This is the impression of Indian ambassador in Beijing, S Jaishankar, the first envoy to visit Tibet in the past decade.
Once the planned facilities are created, the number of pilgrims and visitors from India to Tibet is expected to rise from the 14,000 seen last year. Jaishankar’s Mansarovar journey is possibly the biggest exposure to the changing situation in Tibet for Indian diplomats since the visit of Shiv Shankar Menon, the current National Security Advisor, as the ambassador in Beijing in 2002.
China has indicated it will improve traditional rest places, which are viewed by some pilgrims as old Hindu temples, in Kailash area. The government is also planning to upgrade existing guest-houses into hotels, improve road and transportation facilities in both the Kailash and Mansarovar areas.
It may also relax visa and permit controls to allow more visitors to Mansarovar to extend their journey to other Tibetan areas like Lhasa. At present, many Indian visitors are allowed to go to Mansarovar but not to other places in Tibet.
At the official level, the foreign ministries of the two nations agreed on a quota for allowing 800 pilgrims to visit Mansarovar last year. These pilgrims were brought by government of India run agencies. But China issued permits allowing a total of 14,000 pilgrims last year.
“There is no doubt the Chinese are serious about encouraging more Indian pilgrims to Mansarovar,” Jaishankar told TOI. There are signs China wants to encourage all kinds of Indian and Nepali tourists, and not merely those with a religious bent. It is trying to build modern more tourist entertainment facilities like the World Park in Shenzhen, which has enthralled tourists for many years.
The park contains scaled down models of major world monuments and tourist places, including the seven wonders like the Taj Mahal. The scaled down models, which involve massive amounts of architectural inputs, have helped enhance China’s image as a modern nation.
“Officials were keen to find out what we thought would be the tourist flows from India to Tibet in future,” said Jaishankar.