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In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, the Sikkim government on Thursday (April 24) decided to close the Nathu La Pass, thus cancelling this year’s Kailash Mansarovar Yatra and border trade between India and China.
As per reports, the border trade through Nathu La Pass was scheduled to begin in May while the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via the route was to begin in June.
“Since China is the epicentre of the [coronavirus] outbreak, we will close the Nathu La trade route which is supposed to open on May 1,” said B.S. Panth, Sikkim Tourism and Civil Aviation Minister.
He also said that the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra will not happen this year. "Very soon we will adopt a proposal and inform the Centre,” he added.
The Nathu La trade procedure allows traders from Sikkim to have a limited access to Tibet, and Chinese traders are allowed to enter a few kilometres into Indian territory.
Panth further said that the Sikkim state government is also considering a ban on domestic tourists till October, and will continue to hold the existing ban on international tourists.
After being closed for more than four decades since the Indo-China war in 1963, the Nathu La Pass trade route was re-opened on July 6, 2006. The Kailash Mansarovar Yatra, organised annually by the Ministry of External Affairs, was resumed in June 2015.
The Nathu La trade route and Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra are two major revenue earners for Sikkim, which drew more than 12 lakh domestic tourists and 1,33,388 foreign visitors in 2019.
No COVID-19 cases have been reported from the state so far. Sikkim was among the first states to ban the entry of domestic and international tourists, and migrant labourers. The state has also sealed international borders with China, Nepal and Bhutan along with two out of four check posts with West Bengal.
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