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Move on Kargil-Skardu Road Hailed

[WTN-L World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 05/06/13; June 13, 2005.]

Staff Reporter
13 June 2005 Hindu

Ladakhis hopeful; Manmohan also promises talks with China on route to Tibet

JAMMU: Ladakhis have welcomed the announcement of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to hold talks with Pakistan for opening the road between Kargil and Skardu in Pakistan-controlled northern areas and with China to open the route to Tibet through Aksai Chin.

Ladakh, which was once the centre of Central Asian trade, was geographically cut off from the rest of the world in the later half of the 20th century due to border tensions. The region itself remains cut off from the rest of the State for more than six months due to inclement weather. The people in Leh district of Ladakh share ethnic links with the Tibetan plateau and it was through this region that Buddhism spread to China. Similarly, a number of divided families live in the Shia-dominated Kargil district, which share ethnic links with the neighbouring northern areas controlled by Pakistan. It was in this context that the Shias on Sunday appealed to Dr. Singh to open the Kargil-Skardu route.

Long-standing Demand

Asghar Karblai, the newly-appointed chairman of the Kargil Autonomous Hill Development Council, told The Hindu over phone that it was a longstanding demand of Kargil district to open the old Kargil-Gilgit-Skardu road. "We hope the Prime Minister will open this road as the other routes do not provide much benefit to the divided families of Kargil who live in the northern areas. The Prime Minister has assured us that the Government was considering a proposal to start talks with Islamabad on opening a road between Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir and Skardu in the northern areas which is controlled by Pakistan."

Unique Problems

Nawang Rigzin, Minister in the Mufti Government and hailing from Leh, said Ladakh was ethnically, geographically and culturally different from the rest of the State. It had its own set of problems and aspirations, which needed to be accommodated. "We have apprised the Prime Minister of our feelings and demands," he said.

Opening the Leh-Demchok-Tibet tract would help the people of Leh district. The Prime Minister had been asked to take up the issue of opening up this road with his Chinese counterpart as it would also benefit lakhs of pilgrims who visited Mansarovar in Tibet annually. This route was much shorter compared to the present route tourists took via Uttaranchal to Tibet.

Dr. Singh was also asked to open up economic links by softening the border with the Chinese-controlled territory so that the clandestine trade between the two parts became legitimate. Chinese goods flood Ladakhi markets at present.

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