New Delhi, India – Even because the standoff between Indian and Chinese language armies continues within the Himalayan area of Ladakh for eight months now, the native administration’s determination to reopen the Pangong Tso lake for tourism has come as a glimmer of hope for the native residents.
On Sunday, the administration of the newly-created federal territory of Ladakh opened the world’s highest saltwater lake, nearly a yr after it was closed for vacationers on account of COVID-19 restrictions adopted by the army standoff alongside the disputed border between the 2 Asian giants.
Each side accuse one another of intruding throughout the loosely-demarcated de facto border, generally known as the Line of Precise Management (LAC), with Pangong Tso, positioned 14,000 ft (4,270 metres) above sea degree in Ladakh, being one of many flashpoints.
The standoff started in Might final yr after a scuffle broke out between Indian and Chinese language troops on the lake, leading to 11 troopers being injured on either side. A video shot by an Indian soldier and shared on social media confirmed troopers from each nations engaged in fistfights and stone-pelting on the LAC.
The army standoff intensified a month later when 20 Indian troopers and an undisclosed variety of Chinese language troops had been killed in hand-to-hand fight on June 15, 2020 – the worst clashes between the 2 forces in many years.
The LAC dividing the 2 nuclear-armed nations passes via the landlocked 135km (84 miles) lengthy, boomerang-shaped lake, which is 6km (3.7 miles) extensive at its broadest level. One-third of the lake falls underneath the Indian territory whereas the remaining space is underneath Chinese language management.
The western finish of Pangong Tso lies 54km (33 miles) southeast of Leh, the primary metropolis in Ladakh area.
Welcome transfer, say locals
“The majestic Pangong Lake has been reopened for vacationers beginning January 10. So, get interior line allow (ILP) and go to this spellbinding lake,” the native administration stated in its announcement on Sunday.
The transfer has revived hopes among the many locals of a superb upcoming tourism season within the Himalayan area.
“It’s a very excellent news as a result of the Pangong Lake is without doubt one of the most visited locations for vacationers in Ladakh. It should positively assist the native tourism business,” Kochak Stanzin, an elected councillor from the area, advised Al Jazeera.
Stanzin, who represents Ladakh’s Chushul constituency the place the Pangong Lake is positioned, stated 60 % of Leh’s inhabitants will depend on tourism. He invited the vacationers to go to the frozen lake earlier than winter ends.
Although tourism was hit globally because of the coronavirus pandemic, its impression was felt tougher in Ladakh the place tourism season is squeezed to only a few months, principally from April to mid-October, because of the freezing winters within the area.
Delex Namgyal, a journey and tour operator in Leh, advised Al Jazeera over the phone that the timing of the reopening of the lake for vacationers couldn’t have been higher since January and February are the months when bookings for the summer time season start.
“The timing is nice. It should give a optimistic message that Ladakh is opening up for vacationers,” stated Namgyal, including that nearly 80 % of Indian vacationers arriving in Leh go to the lake.
Whereas only a few thousand vacationers go to Ladakh throughout winters, Namgyal stated that quantity can go as much as greater than 250,000 throughout summers.
Tsewang Yangjor, a hotelier in Leh, advised Al Jazeera 2020 was a “disastrous yr” for the native tourism business and they’re “comfortable that issues are enhancing and the lake has been opened for the vacationers”.
“I believe the scenario [along China border] is perhaps regular now and that’s the reason they’ve determined to provide allow [to visit the lake],” he stated.
However the scenario alongside the LAC is much from regular, with either side deploying numerous troops alongside the Himalayan frontier. A number of rounds of army and diplomatic talks between the 2 nations have failed to finish the standoff.
The choice to reopen the Pangong Tso lake got here a day earlier than India handed again a Chinese language soldier apprehended alongside the southern financial institution of the lake after he transgressed into the Indian facet.
India’s International Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Tuesday stated relations with China have been “profoundly disturbed” after final yr’s lethal border conflict.
China and India fought a struggle in 1962 and proceed to be engaged in a number of disputes alongside the three,488km-long (2,167 miles) frontier they share. But, the 2 international locations have remained centered on increasing business relationships regardless of the tensions.
Although proud of the Ladakh administration’s determination to reopen the lake located alongside the tense India-China border, tour operator Namgyal has a phrase of warning: “The standoff can nonetheless have a detrimental impression [on tourism] if the scenario worsens.”