ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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KATHMANDU-The Road to Lhasa

northern Nepal, sitting by the earthen lamp in her thatched mud-house, the Nepalese maiden no more waits for her lover to return walking behind his tired pony along the dangerous but romantic old trade route. Now the lover returns well before evening by one of the numerous jeeps or buses which ply at frequent intervals on the Chinese- built Kodari-Kathmandu road. Till recently this road was not open to public traffic; only Nepalese labourers working on Chinese projects were seen beyond Barabfsse. But following prolonged and, at times, somewhat ill- tempered parleys between New Delhi and Kathmandu and Kathmandu and Peking, the road was opened to foreigners, including Indians, on the eve of Crown Prince Birendra's marriage in February. Now anyone can travel to Kkdari without much difficulty with a pass obtainable from the Singha Darbar, A comfortable two-and-half-hour drive by car from Kathmandu takes the visitor to Kodari, a small border check-post on the Tibet-Nepal border. Kodari is another Nathu La, with one small but significant difference. Nathu La, at 14,295 ft above sea level, is a pass between Tibet and Sikkim, whereas Kodari is at the foot of high hills standing like two walls. Nathu La is a sealed border-post where Indian and Chinese soldiers face each other with drawn bayonets day and night the year round and only mail bags are allowed to cross the barbed wire on every Thursday and Saturday near Nehru Pillar in the middle of the road which once linked Gangtok with Yatung, a small township in the beautiful Chumbi valley. Nathu La, from where the road suddenly descends towards Yatung, is at the top and the Indian armed forces controlling it have an upper hand should it come to military operations. At Kodari there is no barbed wire and over the Friendship Bridge connecting Nepal with Tibet vehicles keep plying 24 hours a day to and from Lhasa. At the Nepalese end of the bridge stands a lone Gorkha soldier with half-a-dozen of his colleagues resting in the nearby building; at the other end stands a robust Chinese soldier w;th Mao badge and backed by a full company billetted in nearby barracks. And along the road which rises upwards after Friendship Bridge is Khasa, only an hour's drive from Kodari, over looking not only Kodari and the Kodari- Kathmandu road but the entire valley. From Khasa with the help of binoculars Chinese soldiers cannot miss even a small object for miles. This strategic township of Khasa was, it is said, a Nepalese village till the eve of the Nepal-China border agreement. But one fine morning, just before the signing of the agreement, it turned out to have a 100 per cent Chinese population; since then it has served as the Chinese military headquarters in this middle sec- tor of the Sino-Indian defence line.

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