Tuesday, June 6
LAC issue lingering on, Army not keen on allowing tourists to DBO

LAC issue lingering on, Army not keen on allowing tourists to DBO

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Ladakh admn told not to expect opening, at least this year
LEH: While the Ladakh administration has been gearing up to open border areas for the tens of thousands of tourists visiting the union territory this summer, its plans to open Daulat Beg Oldi– India’s northernmost corner for the visitors—have been halted by the security forces.

The move has come after a fresh assessment of the situation, with the top security apparatus having its concerns over allowing civilians to Daulat Beg Oldie, located only nine kilometres away from the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

Expecting its highest ever tourist footfall this year, the Ladakh administration is focussing on promoting the border tourism, with the Marsamik-la and Ghogra hot springs cleared for the visitors this year, even as the process of opening the Mushkoh Valley in Drass has been expedited.

The union territory administration has also been keen on opening the Galwan Valley, the centre point of deadly clashes with Chinese People’s Liberation Army in 2020, and has had their eyes set on gaining access to the border areas in the Valley up to Daulat Beig Oldi for the tourist.

However, the plans have been put on halt, as the Indian Army, Border Road Organisation and the Indo-Tibetan Border Police have raised serious concerns on the move, this newspaper has learnt.

Soon after the 2013 clashes, during which China had stationed its troops in Daulat Beg Oldi sector for three weeks before pulling them away, the Indian Army had barred the Rebos, the nomadic community of Changthang region, from grazing in areas close to the LAC, even as the development works in the border villages suffered immensely.

While the situation improved gradually before deteriorating after the 2020 Galwan clashes occurred, the authorities have been trying to reopen the border areas for tourists, which also got a major push from the union government’s border area development plan.

While the senior officers of Leh district administration and security forces had access to the area until September 2021, in December 2021, the Army placed check-posts at Daulat Beg Oldi, and restricted the free movement of civilian officials.

In its endeavour to reopen the Galwan Valley and other border areas for the tourists, the administration has been in discussions with the security agencies for a few months now, this scribe has learnt from official sources.

“However, in a recent meeting, the security agencies have expressed explicitly that access to Daulat Beig Oldi can not be given to the tourists, not at least this year,” said a senior official.

Last week, Secretary, Tourism and Culture Department for Ladakh UT, Kacho Mehboob Ali Khan visited the Galwan Valley area.

“The officer met the top brass of army authorities, BRO officers and ITBP officers and discussed opening of the border areas up to Daulat Beig Oldi. However, he was apprised of the challenges expected to face in case this area is opened for tourism and was informed of the decision of not allowing tourists to this area,” the official said.

“The restrictions are in place because of the powerful cameras installed by the China’s People’s Liberation Army which detects any civilian movement. With the talks between the two countries going on to resolve the three-year-old standoff, the Army does not want to allow civilians,” another senior official informed.

Meanwhile, Ladakh administration informed that Kacho Mehboob Ali Khan made a comprehensive visit to Nubra, Galwan Valley, Durbuk and adjoining areas of Changthang last week.

An official handout said: During the visit, the Secretary, Tourism visited Diskit, Nubra and along the route he inspected the ongoing works on wayside amenities and viewpoints at South Pullu, North Pullu and Khardung La Passes respectively. He also inspected the ongoing repair works at Diskit tourist Dak-Bunglow.

The Secretary attended the Buddha Purnima function at Diskit Photang and took stock of the ongoing works on the public amenities at the Photang. He directed the Engineers of Leh Development Authority to complete the ongoing works on public amenities at the earliest. The Secretary after visiting the Diskit monastery and Buddha statue site directed the Engineers of LDA to prepare DPR for the proposed improvement of public amenities such as parking space near the Buddha statue and improvement of public gathering ground near the Photang in front of the Buddha Statue and path for water supply to the Diskit Monastery.

The Secretary also visited the Diskit Sand Dunes site and instructed the officers of Leh Development Authority to plan execution of the proposed tourist facilities works.

Secretary Khan had a meeting with the SDM, Durbuk at Tangtse and discussed with him proper regulation of tourist flow along the Changla-Pangong Lake route in view of the ongoing widening work along this route. He emphasized on cleanliness and maintenance of tourist spots and facilities along the tourist routes and at Pangong in particular. At Pangong the Secretary appreciated the efforts being made to keep Pangong area clean by RDD and emphasised on persistent efforts to make cleanliness and hygiene a habit.

On the way back via Hanle, the Secretary, Tourism visited the Rezang La War Memorial and paid homage and respects to the martyrs of the Indian Army who sacrificed their life at Rezang La on 18th November 1962 during the Indo-China war of 1962. He discussed various issues related to tourist visits and movements along this route with the officers of Durbuk Sub-division and the army unit officers.

Visiting the site at Punguk, Hanle where the Tourism department has installed a telescope for promotion of Astro-tourism Secretary, Khan discussed the modalities and preparations required for operationalization of the telescope with the Indian Institute of Astrophysics (IIA) Engineers. Enroute to Leh the Secretary took stock of cleanliness and maintenance of the Hot-spring at Chumathang.

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