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China May Open Easier Route For Pilgrimage To Mansarovar 

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China May Open Easier Route For Pilgrimage To Mansarovar 

China May Open Easier Route For Pilgrimage To Mansarovar 

Beijing: In a major political gesture, Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to announce the opening of a new safe route for Indian pilgrims visiting Kailash and Mansarovar in Tibet via Sikkim during his forthcoming visit to India.

Besides a package of major investments, Xi may announce the opening of the route sought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their first meeting in Fortaleza in Brazil in July this year.

Chinese officials say the proposal is under serious consideration.

All announcements including the quantum of investments China plans to make in India are expected to be announced during Xi’s visit planned for the third week of this month.

Expectations are high that the route through Nathu La border point in Sikkim would be part of the big gesture of friendship not only to strike chord with Modi but also the people at large, specially the Hindus and Buddhists considering its religious importance.

Modi wanted the second route for the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra, keeping in view the terrain difficulties of the existing routes through Uttarakhand and Nepal which involved arduous journey involving heavy tracking or by mules.

The Yatra involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet.

The Yatra being organized by external affairs ministry goes through Lipu Pass, Himalayan pass connecting the Kumaon region of Uttarakhand in India with the old trading town of Taklakot in Tibet. The route was badly damaged in recent floods in Uttarakhand.

The ministry take over 1,000 pilgrims a year in 18 batches involving a 22 day journey.

Tour companies organize similar tours through Nepal which are equally tough, making it difficult for aged and not so healthy people to undertake the pilgrimage.

The journey, however, may become more comfortable if China opens Nathu La pass in Sikkim used for a limited border trade, as the pilgrims could travel by vans and buses up to Mansorvar and Kailash directly.

Officials say the opening of the post will not affect the nature of the border dispute as the clause states that it is subject to the overall agreement of the boundary and would be specified in any new MOU.

The issue figured in the talks on Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs held here in April this year.

The new route, though longer, takes pilgrims from Nathu La to Shigatse also known as Xigaze, the second biggest city in Tibet after provincial Capital Lhasa by road.

From there the pilgrims could comfortably travel to Mansarovar and Kailash using well laid out highway.

Indian travellers, who recently visited the place from China, said the roads from Shigatse to Mansarovar and Kalaish were excellent.

One could drive up to the foot hills of Kailash Mountain, the abode of Lord Shiva without any trekking and mules.

On its part, China is preparing for increased numbers of Indian pilgrims at both the places and has expanded the facilities during the past few years.

In 2012, Beijing invited then Indian envoy S Jaishankar in a rare gesture and took him to Kailash and Mansarovar to show him the improved facilities.

“Indians pilgrimage to Tibet is an important content of bilateral relations. China’s willingness is in accordance with the spirit of the agreement which has been signed by both parties, provide convenience for pilgrims pilgrimage and to further promote non-governmental exchanges between the two countries, and make efforts together to enhance the level of Sino-Indian relations,” the Chinese foreign ministry said.

SOUTH ASIA

Pakistani Anti-graft body wants travel ban on Nawaz Sharif, kin

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Pakistan’s anti-corruption watchdog has asked authorities to place ousted premier Nawaz Sharif, his daughter and son-in-law on the Exit Control List to prevent them from leaving the country.

The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) sent a formal request to the ministry of interior. The interior ministry officials confirmed that the NAB wrote that names of Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law Capt (retd) Muhammad Safdar should be put on the Exit Control List (ECL), which listed individuals not allowed to leave Pakistan.

The NAB argued that as the trial of the three nears its conclusion, it is feared that they would leave the country.

Earlier, a similar request to place name of finance minister Ishaq Dar on ECL was not accepted, allowing him to go to London and never return.

Sharif, 68, and his family this week filed an application with the accountability court seeking a fortnight’s exemption from personal appearance from February 19 onwards to let them go to London to see Sharif’s ailing wife. Three cases were filed against Sharif and his family last year, including Avenfield properties, Azizia & Hill Metal Establishment, and Flagship Investments.

Maryam and Safdar are accused only in Avenfield properties case. The NAB had filed two supplementary references against Sharif, his sons Hasan and Hussain regarding Al-Azizia Steel Mills & Hill Metal Establishment and Flagship Investment cases.

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Pakistan “breaches obligations’ on nuclear arms reduction, UN court told

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The Hague: Pakistan is violating its “obligations” to the international community by failing to reduce its nuclear arsenal, the Marshall Islands told the UN’s highest court on Tuesday.

The small Pacific Island nation is this week launching three unusual cases against India, Pakistan and Britain before the International Court of Justice.

Majuro wants to put a new spotlight on the global nuclear threat, its lawyers said yesterday, by using its own experience with massive US-led nuclear tests in the 1940s and 1950s.

“Pakistan is in breach of its obligations owed to the international community as a whole,” when it comes to reducing its nuclear stockpile, said Nicholas Grief, one of the island nation’s lawyers.

Islamabad and its nuclear-armed neighbour India “continue to engage in a quantitative build-up and a qualitative improvement” of their atomic stockpiles, added Tony deBrum, a Marshallese government minister.

DeBrum warned that even a “limited nuclear war” involving the two countries would “threaten the existence” of his island nation people.

Pakistan and India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947, two of them over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir.

In 1998, the rival neighbours both demonstrated nuclear weapons capability.

The ICJ’s judges are holding hearings for the next week and a half to decide whether it is competent to hear the lawsuits brought against India and Pakistan — neither of which have signed the 1968 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

A third hearing against Britain — which has signed the NPT — scheduled to start on Wednesday will be devoted to “preliminary objections” raised by London.

The Marshalls initially sought to bring a case against nine countries it said possessed nuclear arms: Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia and the United States.
Israel has never admitted to having nuclear weapons.

But the Hague-based ICJ, set up in 1945 to rule in disputes between states, has only admitted three cases against Britain, India and Pakistan, because they have accepted the ICJ’s compulsory jurisdiction.

Pakistan’s lawyers did not attend Tuesday’s hearings.

It did however file a counter-claim against Majuro’s allegations saying “the court has no jurisdiction to deal with the application” and insisting that the case is “not admissible”, said ICJ President Ronny Abraham.

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

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Bangladesh to drop Islam as official religion following attacks on Hindus

New Delhi: Bangladesh is likely to drop Islam as its official religion following a series of attacks on people from other faiths in the country. The country’s Supreme Court is hearing a plea challenging the status of the official religion of the country to Islam.

Bangladesh, which was declared a secular country after its formation in 1971, was declared an Islamic country following a constitutional amendment in 1988.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, the plea has challenged the declaration of Islam as the national religion of the country.

The move is being supported by leaders from the minority communities like Hindus, Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

Bangladesh has 90 per cent of Muslims, 8 per cent Hindus and remaining constitutes Christians and Muslim minority Shiites.

In last month, a Hindu priest was hacked to death following an attack on a temple in Panchgarh district. Two others were seriously injured in the attack. There have been several lethal attacks on writers and bloggers.

According to a report in the Independent, Islamist groups Jumatul Mujahedeen Bangladesh and Ansarullah Bangla Team are believed to have carried out at least seven attacks on foreign and minority people in Bangladesh in the past year.

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