Indians will soon be able to cruise their 4x4s or launch biking blitz through some forbidden land in the strategic Chang Chenmo sector close to patrolling points north of Pangong lake in eastern Ladakh, even as the border standoff with China is into its fourth year now.

Words from the officials:

"In the first phase," sources said, "tourists will be allowed across the 18,314-feet-high Marsimik La (pass) up to Tsogtsalo, a pastureland near the confluence of Rimdi Chu and Chang Chenmo rivers some 160 km east of Leh, close to the LAC (line of actual control) with China running north of Pangong."

"In the second phase, tourists will be allowed to travel up to Hot Springs, further up from Tsogtsalu, and the memorial built in honour of 10 CRPF jawans killed on October 21, 1959, when their patrol was attacked by the Chinese," the official said.

Officials said the administration has been ready with plans for toilets, selfie points and medical centres in January. “Border Roads Organsiation has been roped in for construction with district funding. Police is also ready to set up check posts,” a senior official said.

Words from Army HQ:

The Indian Army, usually hesitant in such cases, is on board. “Indian Army endorsed the opening of a number of treks and routes including Marsimik La, in addition to other places such as Hot Spring and Tsogtsalo,” the Army HQ said in response to queries from news agency.

The Army has its well-meaning reasons. “The civil administration needs to give due consideration to non-availability of any civil infrastructure and support system while allowing tourists into these areas,” the Army HQ said.

Expansion of tourism:

Galwan Valley, further ahead of Hot Springs, and other areas are the latest in a series of frontier areas the Ladakh administration wants to open for tourism in line with Centre’s focus on border area development. It has also been a long-pending demand of locals, who traditionally roamed these lands with their herds. The inner line permit system for Indians was scrapped in August 2021 but areas close to the disputed parts of LAC remain out of bounds for visitors.

This time, however, clearance came quickly after two meetings the local Army brass had with top administration officials in December 2022. Sources said the administration was for opening up the areas from April but a change of guard at the local formation slowed down the process.