New Delhi: External affairs minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday flagged-off the first batch of pilgrims for this year’s Kailash Mansarovar Yatra.

While addressing a gathering on this occasion, Union Minister said that pilgrimage is an “important step” towards promoting people-to-people exchanges, strengthening friendship and understanding between India and China.

The ministry of external affairs organises the annual yatra via two different routes- Lipulekh Pass (Uttarakhand) and Nathu La Pass (Sikkim). Thousands of devotees participate in the Yatra through a treacherous route that crosses territorial boundaries of India, Nepal and China.

For Kailash Mansarovar yatra 2019, the ministry had received 2,996 applications, out of which 2,256 were by male applicants and 740 by females. As many as 624 senior citizens had applied for the yatra.

For the Lipulekh route, there will be 18 batches with 60 pilgrims each and for the Nathu La route, 10 batches with 50 yatris each. Two liaison officers will assist each batch of pilgrims.

Besides support from the government of Uttarakhand, Delhi and Sikkim, the yatra is organised with the cooperation of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police.