"The Nathu La route for Indian pilgrims to visit Kailash Mansarovar will become operational in June. I want to thank China for that," the Prime Minister said in his address here after 24 agreements were signed between India and China.

The second route through the Himalayan pass of Nathu La, 4,000 metres above sea level, will allow more Indians to undertake the pilgrimage, in addition to the existing Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand.

The only route - Lipulekh Pass - was badly damaged in the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013.

The route through Nathu La Pass will facilitate comfortable travel for Indian pilgrims by buses, especially for elderly Indian citizens, though conditions in the Himalayan region with less oxygen levels still pose a
challenge.

The Ministry of External Affairs currently takes more than 1,000 pilgrims a year in 18 batches involving a 22-day journey and officials expect that the number of pilgrims could rise considerably once the new route is opened.

Modalities for opening the second route for the Kailash- Manasarovar Yatra in Tibet via Sikkim by June were finalised on February 1 when External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj was visiting the communist nation.

Chinese President Xi Jinping had promised opening the new route for the Yatra to Modi during the former's maiden visit to New Delhi in September last year and the two sides had agreed to work closely to ensure smooth commencement of the pilgrimage through the new route.

Modi made a strong pitch for the second route during his first meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil.

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