Indian envoy in Tibet after 10 years

Beijing: The Indian envoy to China, S Jaishankar, is on a rare visit to Tibet where he is touring Mount Kailash and Manasarovar — two religious centres frequented by Indian pilgrims, and areas that witnessed unrest and a number of self-immolations. Jaishankar`s visit is the first such visit by a top Indian diplomat in a decade, after the 2002 visit of the then Indian Ambassador and present National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon.

Beijing invited Jaishankar to have first hand look at the Himalayan region, specially sacred places like Manasarovar where it plans to step up investments to improve facilities for Indian pilgrims. The rare visit of Jaishankar to Tibet has its own political significance. During his ongoing tour, Jaishankar has already visited Mount Kailash and Manasarovar — the two most important sacred places visited by batches of Indian pilgrims every year.

He is scheduled to visit the Nepal border tomorrow from where the Indian pilgrims enter Tibet. Speaking to PTI here over the phone from Manasarovar, the envoy said Chinese officials were keen to improve facilities for the Indian pilgrims, whose numbers were steadily going up. Officials in Tibet were very positive about improving facilities like transport, stay and food for the Indian pilgrims, he said.

"After meeting officials Mount Kailash and Manasarovar, I found the Chinese authorities are interested in further improving the facilities," he said. Indian pilgrims visit the holy places in batches. The visit of each batch lasts about two weeks.

As the relations improved between the two countries, China appeared to be keen to make it easier and comfortable for the Indian pilgrims, considering the spiritual significance of the Himalayan pilgrim centres.

Besides the pilgrim centres, the Indian envoy would also be visiting other areas of Tibet, which along with neighbouring Tibetan prefectures in recent months witnessed a number of self-immolations, calling for the return of the Dalai Lama and to protest against the security curbs.