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NE India will be gateway to SE Asia: PM Modi in Bangkok

Modi hailed India’s ties with Thailand and talked about the similarities between the two cultures as he addressed thousands of people of Indian origin in Bangkok’s Nimibutr Stadium at the ‘Sawasdee PM Modi’ event.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Saturday India wants to strengthen its “deep friendly and historical relationship” with Thailand by transforming its northeastern region as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

Modi hailed India’s ties with Thailand and talked about the similarities between the two cultures as he addressed thousands of people of Indian origin in Bangkok’s Nimibutr Stadium at the ‘Sawasdee PM Modi’ event.

The Prime Minister said one of the key elements of his government is to strengthen the ties with ASEAN countries.

“For that, we’ve formed the Act East Policy… For the first time last year, leaders from all 10 ASEAN countries came to India to participate in India’s Republic Day Celebrations,” Modi pointed out.

He said India wants to further strengthen the ties between India and Thailand by transforming its northeastern region as a gateway to Southeast Asia.

“This part of India will give strength to both our Act East Policy and Thailand’s Act West Policy,” he said.

“Once the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway is opened, then there will be seamless connectivity between northeast India and Thailand. This will increase trade in this region as well as tourism and tradition,” he said.

Modi also talked about how India and Thailand have come together to build a relationship, including he said the flights between the two countries, especially his parliamentary constituency Varanasi.

“India and Thailand are progressing at a rapid pace, together. At least 300 flights fly between the two countries weekly. At least 18 destinations in Thailand are connected to India, and the average flight time is between two to four hours,” he said.

“A direct flight has been started from Varanasi, my constituency and the world’s oldest cultural hub, to Thailand. It has also garnered a lot of fame,” he added.

The Prime Minister also emphasised the similarities between Thailand and India.

“You are of Indian origin also because you can find familiarity in every particle of Thailand. There is a glimpse of Indianness in the way people talk, its food, in its traditions, faith and architecture,” he said amid chants of Modi, Modi.

‘Sawasdee PM Modi’ is being organised by Thai Indians along with the Indian embassy in Bangkok. “Sawasdee”, derived from Sanskrit svasti or well being, is the word Thai people use for greetings and goodbye.

“The ties between India and Thailand is not just between the two governments. Every moment and event in history has developed and broadened our relationship and taken it to new heights. These relationships are of the heart, soul, faith and spirituality,” he said.

“Thousands of years ago, ties with South East Asia developed through sea routes and our sailors then travelled thousands of miles on the waves of the sea to build bridges of prosperity and culture that still exist,” he said.

The Prime Minister talked about the massive mandate his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) received “for the first time in 60 years” in the Lok Sabha elections held in April-May to form the government for a second term.

“The transformation that India is undergoing at the moment is exactly why the people of the country chose me to become their prime servant for the second time in the Lok Sabha polls earlier this year. They blessed me with more votes than they did last time,” he said.

He had to stop his speech several times as people at the Nimibutr Stadium cheered him on while he spoke about his government’s scheme and policies, including Ayushman Bharat, which he said have benefitted millions of people in India.

“When a decision is right and is taken with the right mentality, it resonates with the entire world. Today, I can hear it in Thailand. This standing ovation from you is for the Parliament of India,” Modi said.

Before his address in Hindi, the Prime Minister also released a commemorative coin marking the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev and the Thai translation of Tamil classic ‘Tirukkural’ written by Thiruvalluvar.

Saturday’s event comes after the mega ‘Howdy, Modi!’ outreach programme in the US’ Houston on September 23 attended by more than 50,000 people. US president Donald Trump was also present at the event.

Modi is in Thailand on a three-day visit to take part in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), East Asia, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) summits.

Prime Minister Modi will co-chair the 16th ASEAN-India summit alongside Thai Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha on Sunday.

In a statement before his departure, the Prime Minister said that during the visit, he will also hold bilateral meetings with a number of other world leaders present in the Thailand capital for related summit meetings.

“The ASEAN-related summits are an integral part of our diplomatic calendar, and an important element in our Act East Policy. Our partnership with ASEAN is built around the key pillars of connectivity, capacity-building, commerce and culture,” he had said. (HT)

International

Bru refugees in Tripura say they face humanitarian crisis, threaten blockade

After threatening to loot government godowns, Bru refugees in Tripura on Tuesday announced they would launch an indefinite road blockade at Kanchanpur in the state’s North district from October 31. The blockade would continue till their ration along with cash and dole are resumed, they said.

As per the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) instructions, their ration supplies and cash and dole were stopped to the Bru camps since October 1 this year to complete their repatriation to Mizoram.

The Mizoram Bru Displaced Peoples’ Forum (MBDPF) on Tuesday submitted a memorandum to Kanchanpur sub divisional magistrate (SDM) Abhedananda Baidya where they have mentioned about their indefinite road blockade between Dasda and Anandabazaar at Kanchanpur. The refugees claim they are facing a humanitarian crisis.

“ The hungry and desperate displaced Brus can no longer withstand to see the incessant crying of innocent children, bedridden patients and lactating mother for food, and such a horrible situation bound all the displaced Brus to block the said road to draw the kind attention of the Central Government , state government of Tripura and Mizoram from 31st October, 2019 till resumption of ration and cash-dole as earlier,” said the memorandum signed by MBDPF president of A Sawibunga and general secretary Bruno Msha.

The memorandum also termed the ongoing repatriation of Bru refugees to Mizoram as ‘forceful and not peaceful’ as the process has taken place regardless of the safety and security of the Brus and ignoring their minimum demands.

On October 24, the MBDPF, Mizoram Bru Indigeneous Democratic Movement (MBIDM) and Bru Tribal Development Society (BTDS) sent a letter to the North district magistrate through Kanchanpur SDM threatening to loot government godowns and block main road as their ration supplies were stopped two days before the ninth phase of repatriation began on October 3.

According to the central rehabilitation package, Bru adults are given Rs. 5 per day, Rs. 2.5 for each minor, 600 gram of rice on everyday basis, three soaps, a pair of slippers a year and a mosquito net in every three years.

Over 37,000 Bru people had taken shelter in Tripura in 1997 to escape an ethnic clash in Mizoram.

Currently, nearly 4,000 Bru families are settled in six camps – three each at Kanchanpur and Panisagar sub divisions of North district, around 200 kilometres from Agartala.

Over 80 Bru families have been repatriated since October 1 from the six camps.

After more than two decades, the Centre had signed a pact with Tripura and Mizoram governments and MBDPF, a forum comprising of Bru people in New Delhi on July 3 last year for repatriation of the refugees.

The post repatriation agreement promised Rs 4 lakh as fixed deposit, Rs 5,000 for a period of two years with Rs. 1.50 lakh for construction of house to each family and formation of cluster village.

First Published in HT

by Priyanka Deb Barman

International

Manipur dissident leaders announce a ‘government in exile’ in U.K.

Dissident political leaders from the Indian state of Manipur on Tuesday said they were unilaterally declaring independence from India and forming a government-in-exile in Britain.

The former princely state became part of India in 1949, two years after the country won independence from Britain, but has since seen decades-long violent separatist campaigns.

Narengbam Samarjit, external affairs minister in the self-declared Manipur State Council, said the exiled government would push for recognition at the United Nations.

“We will run the de jure exiled government here … from today onwards,” he told reporters in London after a declaration of independence first announced in Manipur in 2012 was read aloud.

“We will seek recognition from different nations … to become a [UN] member. We hope many of the countries will recognise our independence.”

Manipur, one of India’s smallest states with a population of about just 2.8 million people, is one of the so-called “Seven Sisters” – a group of restive northeastern states.

The region, encircled by five other countries and connected to the rest of India by a sliver of land arching over Bangladesh, has been wracked by armed conflict and instability.

Violence part of life

It has spawned more than 100 fighter groups over the decades whose demands range from autonomy to secession.

Violence has been part of daily life for decades in Manipur, which borders Myanmar, with a strong presence of the Indian military.

The state has a strong ethnic mix, and its Meitei, Naga, Kuki and Pangal communities are all deeply committed to preserving their own cultural autonomy.

Its people have also always tended to look eastwards in their search for cultural links.

Samarjit said he hoped the world would support its independence cause.

“We are not free there and our history is going to be destroyed, our culture is going to be extinct,” he warned.

“So the UN should listen … we raise our voice to the whole world that the people living in Manipur are human beings.”

The High Commission of India did not respond to a request for comment.

Himalayan News Network

International

Senior NSCN-IM Leader, 16 Others Join Rival Naga Group

Days before another round of Naga peace talks on October 31, a top leader of NSCN-IM, along with 16 other members, quit the rebel group accusing it of being “insensitive” to the people’s plea for an honourable solution to the vexed issue and joined the rival Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs).

In a statement issued Friday night, Hukavi Yeputhomi said the working committee of the NNPGs has been “practical and realistic” in its negotiation with the Centre.

“Without compromising on our history and identity, I, Hukavi Yeputhomi, former kilo kilonser (home minister) of NSCN-IM and currently a member in the ongoing negotiating team of NSCN-IM, along with 16 co-workers, on our own volition and with clear conscience, has joined the WC NNPG,” he said.

A team of the Nationalist Social Council of Nagaland, Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) held talks with the Centre’s interlocutor R N Ravi in last week of October  but the discussions remained inconclusive. The next round of talks is expected on October 31.

Sources said the demand for a separate flag and constitution for the Nagas has become the main contention between the two sides with the NSCN-IM, which had signed a framework agreement with the Centre in August 2015, strongly pressing for it.

International

Nagaland police told to stock rations

A day after the Government of India and the National Socialist Council of Nagaland – Isak-Muivah (NSCN-IM) failed to put an end to 22-year long parleys by culminating into peace agreement, the State government directed all unit commanders of the state’s police to stock ration and fuel for as long as two months in advance, reports The Hindu.

Given the timing of the instructions issued by the State government, the directive has triggered panic buying among the common people fearing a clampdown of services and shutdown in the region, akin to the one that was imposed in Jammu and Kashmir post abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian Constitution on 5 August.

The panic among the people is triggered by the fear of the peace talks and negotiations falling out as the 31 October deadline for signing of agreement set by the Government of India looks certain to be breached because of belligerence displayed by NSCN-IM over demand of separate flag and constitution which the Government of India has refused to accept.

It should also be noted that in a separate directive issued on 21 October, the State Government has warned of disciplinary action against State government employees upon criticising the policies and actions of the government over social media, press or public meetings.

Speculations Rife Over Naga Peace Talks As State Government Asks Nagaland Police To Stock Rations 
Write caption…

Sumi women from Nagaland. (Wikimedia Commons)

International

Is Mount Everest shrinking? Nepal is on a mission to find out

By Joanna Slater 

 When Khim Lal Gautam reached the top of Mount Everest at 3 a.m. on May 22, it was dark, windy and lethally cold.

Gautam carried some unusual baggage — a ground-penetrating radar and a top-of-the-line satellite navigation device. Unlike most climbers, he and his team remained at the summit for nearly two hours so they could take the measurements they needed. Gautam suffered a serious case of frostbite, and his colleague nearly died of a lack of oxygen while descending.

But they completed their mission: to obtain crucial pieces of data that will help determine Mount Everest’s true height.

The most commonly accepted figure for Mount Everest’s height is 29,029 feet, a measurement that dates to the 1950s. Some scientists believe that the world’s tallest mountain may have shrunk slightly after a powerful earthquake struck Nepal in 2015.AD

Now, for the first time, Nepal has sent its own teams outfitted with the latest surveying technology to come up with a new measurement of the peak. The two-year, $1.3 million effort is driven both by patriotism and scientific inquiry, experts say.

The southern flank of Mount Everest “belongs to Nepal, but for 170 years foreigners have been measuring its height,” said Roger Bilham, a geologist at the University of Colorado. The current project could be “the most accurate measurement ever made.”

Sometime early next year, the new height will emerge from a modest cluster of offices on the ground floor of a government building in Kathmandu, home to the country’s Survey Department. Susheel Dangol, the chief survey officer, recently installed a keypad-entry system for his department just to safeguard the Everest data.AD

“Everyone is curious about the project,” he said with a grin. During an interview, his cellphone rang with a call from a senior official in the country’s Land Ministry inquiring about the progress of the work. Dangol has developed a stock response to those who ask about the final figure: At the moment, I’m unable to say. 

Dangol, 38, oversees a team of 80 people who have hiked, driven and helicoptered across Nepal to gather the data required for an updated measurement. Among their challenges: transporting a $200,000 Canadian-made gravimeter — which measures the force of gravity at a given location — along juddering Himalayan roads to nearly 300 different spots.

The question of Everest’s height is intimately linked to its modern history. It is known in Nepal as Sagarmatha and in Tibet as Chomolungma. The search for the mountain’s English name began after it was declared the world’s tallest peak by surveyors in India in 1856. (Its namesake is George Everest, the prior chief surveyor of India, but even he wasn’t crazy about having the mountain named after him.)AD

Dangol’s team is tackling its task with two methods. The first is to measure Everest the old-fashioned way using trigonometry. Such calculations produced the first-ever tally of Everest’s height, as well as the measurement taken in the 1950s by an Indian team that serves asthe current standard.

But that technique will serve as “a check, a redundancy,” said Christopher Pearson, a research fellow at the University of Otago in New Zealand who consulted with Nepal on the project. The pathbreaking part of the effort will come through the second method, which relies on a combination of readings from a satellite navigation system and a complex model of sea level.

Enter Gautam, a 15-year veteran of the survey department. The 35-year-old had already summitted Everest once before in 2011. This time, however, his four-person team was carrying 90 pounds of equipment in addition to their regular climbing gear. They planned their ascent to arrive at the summit in the middle of the night so their work would not be disturbed by other climbers.

Nepali surveyor Khim Lal Gautam (right) at the summit of Mount Everest in the early hours of May 22. On his left is a satellite navigation device to measure the mountain’s peak. (Khim Lal Gautam)
Nepali surveyor Khim Lal Gautam (right) at the summit of Mount Everest in the early hours of May 22. On his left is a satellite navigation device to measure the mountain’s peak. (Khim Lal Gautam)

While most climbers limit their time at the roof of the world to descend quickly from the “death zone,” Gautam and his team “did not have that privilege,” he recalled. They stayed at the summit for an hour and 45 minutes, taking readings with a Global Navigation Satellite System device and a ground-penetrating radar that can gauge the difference between the actual rock summit and the snow that covers it.AD

Wearing bulky mittens against the extreme cold, Gautam and his team couldn’t operate the small knobs on their equipment. So they took off the mittens and worked in fleece gloves instead. For weeks afterward, Gautam had no sensation in his fingers. The frigid temperatures also damaged his feet: He lost the tip of his left big toe to frostbite and now wears only sandals, rather than shoes.

On the descent, all their food and water was gone, and Gautam’s colleague ran out of oxygen, a life-threatening situation. Their climbing guide managed to borrow a bottle from another Sherpa who was heading up the mountain, Gautam said, saving his colleague’s life.

Although the data they carried with them on the way down weighed nothing, “its preciousness made it so heavy,” said Gautam.

Yet the satellite readings from the Everest expedition are not sufficient. They give the mountain’s “ellipsoidal” height — the height of the summit above a smoothed geometric model of the Earth. The readings do not reveal an object’s precise height above sea level. AD

Judging exactly where sea level would begin beneath Everest’s massive tons of rock turns out to be a key question. Generating the model of sea level required lugging a gravimeter, which is carried in a large suitcase-like box, to 297 spots in Nepal. “We have to be cautious and drive slowly,” Dangol said. At each measuring point, the machine must be calibrated before taking readings for two sessions of three minutes each. 

The data collection will be completed next month, Dangol said. Then the processing will begin: six people, sitting in a room equipped with high-speed computers and specialized software, for three to four months, checking and rechecking the figures. It will be a “closed camp,” Dangol said. Not even he will know the results at first. 

Nepal’s effort has been “incredible,” said Pearson, the surveying expert in New Zealand. “Staggeringly, it has all worked, and they have all the information they need to get an accurate height.”AD

Dangol is already looking forward to next year, when Nepal plans to unveil Everest’s new height — both the rock height and the snow height, down to the centimeter. That will be “kind of like a thesis defense,” he said. 

Even the loss of part of his toe did not dull Gautam’s pride in his work. “We are so happy because we finished our difficult task,” he said. “I was ready to take [a] risk for the nation.” 

Ankit Adhikari contributed to this report.

International

Rainy Days Ahead for Northeast India

A low-pressure area, currently located over Odisha, is set to bring an intense bout of heavy to very heavy rains over the eastern and northeastern states of India on Friday.

According to The Weather Channel’s forecasters, Assam, Meghalaya and Sikkim will experience heavy to very heavy rainfall on Friday. Moreover, heavy rains are also forecast in Bihar, Jharkhand, West Bengal, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Tripura.

A 24-hour precipitation accumulation (i.e. total rainfall volume) of over 100mm is also possible over eastern and northeastern India on Friday, and over northeast India on Saturday.

Rainfall accumulation forecast during the next 48 hours, from Friday morning to Sunday morning(TWC Met Team)

The India Meteorological Department (IMD) also forecasts that isolated places over Assam and Meghalaya will experience thunderstorms accompanied by lightning and gusty winds (with speed up to 30-40 kmph) over the next 48 hours.

The regional met centre also forecasts the possibility of thunderstorms with lightning across northeastern states on Friday and Saturday. Gale winds of up to 40 kmph are forecast in isolated places over Assam and Meghalaya. The IMD has issued an orange level alert for these two states, while other states in the northeast have been put under a yellow watch. IMD’s orange alert signifies ‘be prepared’ for extreme weather, while yellow watch recommends to ‘be updated’.

The circulation and the related low is expected to move northeastward on Friday, and reach northeastern India on Saturday morning. The intensity of rainfall is likely to drop after Sunday, as the low-pressure loses steam.

Since the start of October, five Northeastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Sikkim) have experienced ‘deficit’ rainfall as compared to the normal average, while Manipur has experienced a ‘large deficit’. However, with heavy rain headed their way, these statistics could change drastically over the weekend.

For weather & air quality updates on the go, download The Weather Channel App (on Android and iOS store). It’s free!

International

India, Nepal, Bhutan plan trans-border conservation area

India, Nepal and Bhutan have drafted a memorandum of understanding to create a a trans-boundary wildlife conservation ‘peace park’, Soumitra Dasgupta, inspector-general of forests (wildlife) under the environment, forest and climate change ministry told Down to Earth, the premier environment and development magazine.

“The process is in its final stage. The MoU is currently going back and forth among the countries for final changes,” he said.

The proposed Park will include biodiversity-rich landscapes in adjoining areas of the three countries, Director General of Forest Siddhanta Das told Down to Earth.

“The trans-boundary parks present a fundamental shift in which wildlife conservation is done. From a species focused approach, we are moving to a landscape based approach,” he said.

There is already one trans-boundary Protected Area in India and Bhutan, which includes the Manas landscape of Assam, and the new tripartite park will be an extension of this, Das said.

“This initiative was taken by India keeping in view the migratory wildlife species such as elephant,” Das said. 

Last month a meeting was held in Bhutan where the country shared its final views with India, which were under consideration, Das said.

The process started this year, with the idea that wildlife species, their movement and conservation should not be interrupted by political boundaries.

“This project will maintain the natural connectivity of wildlife species, undisturbed by political boundaries. The project will also help the local communities through ecotourism. It will also maintain the traditional and cultural continuity of villages that share similar traditions from time immemorial, but have been separated by the political boundary. In this sense this park will be a harbinger of peace in the area,” Dasgupta said. 

The process, although started by the MoEF&CC, has to involve the Ministry of External Affairs, given the multinational nature of the project. 

International

Army attacks terror launch pads in PoK with artillery guns, Pakistan army accuses India of targeting civilians to ‘justify false claims

  • Targeting innocent civilians by Indian Army is an attempt to justify their false claims of targeting alleged camps. Injured civilians evacuated to District hospitals, the Pakistan Army official Twitter handle said
  • It further added that the Indian Army shall always get ‘befitting response’ to ceasefire violations. ‘Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC & inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army’
  • Heavy cross-border shelling was reported early on Sunday near Jammu and Kashmir’s Tanghar and Nowgam sectors. At least, two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed

Soon after the Indian Army said that they have retaliated fiercely to Pakistan’s ceasefire violation in Jammu and Kashmir’s Tangdhar sector in Kupwara, the Pakistan Armed Forces spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor tweeted a jibe at the army and said, “Indian Army struggling to pick dead bodies and evacuate injured soldiers. Indian Army raising white flag. This they should think before initiating unprovoked CFVs and respect military norms by avoiding to target innocent civilians.”

The official Twitter handle of Pakistan Army’s spokesperson also alleged that it was Indian Army who violated the ceasefire and in the process “targetted civilians.” “9 Indian soldiers killed several injured. 2 Indian bunkers destroyed. During exchange of fire 1 soldier & 3 civilians shaheed, 2 soldiers & 5 civilians injured.”

In a series of tweets, the spokesperson further added, “Indian Army shall always get befitting response to CFVs. Pakistan Army shall protect innocent civilians along LOC & inflict unbearable cost to Indian Army. Indian lies to justify their false claims & preparations for a false flag operation will continue to be exposed with truth.”

According to latest reports, terrorist launch pads in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir’s Jura, Athmuqam and Kundalsahi were targeted by Indian Army artillery guns on Saturday night after credible inputs came of significant number of terrorists operating there.

Heavy cross-border shelling was reported early on Sunday near Jammu and Kashmir’s Tanghar and Nowgam sectors. At least, two Indian soldiers and a civilian were killed as Pakistani troops violated the ceasefire in Tanghar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Kupwara district on Sunday, police said. Five Pakistani army men were killed in retaliatory firing by the Indian Army in Tangdhar sector along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir, official army sources confirmed on Sunday.

According to sources in the Indian Army, two Indian soldiers were killed in ceasefire violation, along the Line of Control in Tangdhar sector in Jammu and Kashmir when Pakistan Army was pushing infiltrators into Indian territory. Indian Army is retaliating strongly in the entire sector, the statement further said.

Indian Army confirmed that they launched attacks on terrorist camps situated inside Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK) opposite the Tanghar sector. This is in retaliation to the support provided by Pakistan Army to push terrorists into Indian territory, Indian Army spokesperson was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Indian army has used artillery guns to target the terrorist camps which have been actively trying to push terrorists into Indian territory, ANI reported. A 27-year-old woman was killed on Tuesday due to unprovoked mortar shelling from the Pakistani side. The number of ceasefire violations by Pakistan has seen a spike this year, The Indian Express reported. The months of July, August, and September saw more combined violations than in the same months in the last two years.

With inputs from agencies

International

Indian Tourist from Maharashtra Detained in Bhutan for ‘Desecrating’ Holy Buddhist Chorten

A biker from India was seen standing on the dome of a sacred structure in Bhutan, which has sparked outrage on social media in the Himalayan nation and India, where people criticised him for his behaviour that could embarrass the country.

In a video tweeted by The Bhutanese newspaper, the tourist in a black jacket and jeans with protective biking gear is seen climbing a ladder to the top of the memorial structure at Dochula, 20 km from Bhutan’s capital Thimphu.

There are 108 stupas at Dochula, built in the memory of Bhutanese soldiers who died in a military strike – Operation All Clear – in 2003 to flush out insurgents from India’s north-east region. The insurgents had set up camps in Bhutan along the border with India.

In another photo, a Bhutanese carpenter was seen sitting on the ladder on the dome of the chorten or a religious monument. The local police are looking for him.

View image on Twitter

The newspaper reported the tourist in the biker outfit has been identified as Abhijit Ratan Hajare, a resident of Maharashtra. “In the second picture the man sitting on the ladder is a Bhutanese citizen and carpenter, Jambay, who was doing repair works on the Chortens,” The Bhutanese tweeted.

There is rising concern in Bhutan against the huge influx of tourists that may damage its fragile ecosystem

“Abhijit was part of a 15-bike convoy headed by a Bhutanese team leader. Incident happened when bikers were resting at Dochula and the team leader was trying to arrange parking for the bikes. The Bhutanese team leader was unaware of the incident,” the newspaper said.

“Abhijit, whose passport has been taken by the RBP (Royal Bhutan Police) has been called in for questioning today. RBP is launching its investigation today. The Indian tourist came across Jambay and he allowed them to climb the ladder. The RBP are in the process of tracking Jambay down,” it reported.

The Indian tourist apologised in writing to the police, after which he was released, the newspaper reported.

Indians don’t need a visa to travel to Bhutan. However, they should have either a passport with minimum six-month validity or a voter identity card.

For some time now, environmentalists and activists in Bhutan have been raising concerns over a huge influx of tourists that may add pressure on the landlocked Himalayan nation’s fragile ecosystem.

Tenzing Lamsang, editor of The Bhutanese that reported the stupa incident first, said unsustainable growth of regional tourists is affecting the country. “The issue is not about discrimination,” he said. 

Over 50,000 regional tourists came to Bhutan in 2012, as against 54,685 “international tariff-paying” tourists, Mr Lamsang said. In comparison, over two lakh regional tourists – a huge rise in number – came to Bhutan in 2018 and only 71,807 international tourists came, he added. (NDTV)