China has not granted visas to a group of Indians planning to undertake the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra on Wednesday, sources said on Tuesday, hours after the country opposed India's move to make Ladakh a new union territory.
Following the government's decision to revoke Jammu and Kashmir's special status and split the state into union territories, China on Tuesday asked both India and Pakistan to exercise restraint and voicing "serious concern" over the situation in Kashmir.
Saying that the two countries should avoid actions that "unilaterally" change the status quo and "exacerbate tensions" between them, China also expressed its opposition to India's move to create a separate Union Territory of Ladakh.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said in a statement: "China always opposes India's inclusion of Chinese territory in the western section of the China-India boundary under its administrative jurisdiction."
"This position is firm and consistent and has never changed. The recent unilateral revision of domestic laws by the Indian side continues to undermine China's territorial sovereignty, which is unacceptable and will not have any effect," she added.
India firmly rejected China's stand - the first time the country publicly voiced its claim on parts of Ladakh in years - calling it an "internal matter".
"The Jammu and Kashmir Reorganization Bill 2019, introduced by the Government in Parliament on 5 August, which proposes the formation of a new 'Union Territory of Ladakh' is an internal matter concerning the territory of India," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
"India does not comment on the internal affairs of other countries and similarly expects other countries to do likewise," he added.
"So far as the India-China Boundary Question is concerned, the two sides have agreed to a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable settlement of the boundary question on the basis of the Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of India-China Boundary Question," Mr Kumar said.
"Pending such a settlement, both sides have agreed to maintain peace and tranquillity in the border areas on the basis of the relevant agreements," he added.
The annual Kailash Mansarovar Yatra is organised by the Ministry of External Affairs from June to September each year through two different routes - Lipulekh Pass in Uttarakhand and Nathu La Pass in Sikkim.
Undertaken by hundreds of people every year, the pilgrimage involves a trek to what is believed to be the abode of Hindu deity Shiva and bathe in the sacred Mansarovar lake.
The yatra involves trekking at high altitudes of up to 19,500 feet through Chinese territory, under inhospitable conditions, including extreme weather and rugged terrain.