For last couple of days, there has been a lot of confusion, discussion and questions regarding a few routes in Ladakh getting off limits for tourists in 2018. To be specific, there are speculations that permits for Hanle, Chushul, Umling La and Agham Shyok road will not be issued this year. This seems to be causing a lot of disappointment and frustration among people who have already had their itineraries prepared for Ladakh trip this year.
First, a couple of things to clarify:
- Umling La pass came in existence last year; so 2018 is actually the first year when people will request permits to go this way. This entire route became famous only in last few months. In 2017, just a handful of people had knowledge of this pass and they ventured this way while visiting Hanle. There were really no check posts on the road except for a few BRO camps so these people were successfully able to reach the pass and return to Hanle by evening.
- There never was a permit required separately for Shyok route. The usual ILP issued for Nubra and Pangong used to work well for traveling on this road as well.
So what really went wrong? Well several things to be honest. Firstly the pass became famous and is on the itinerary of everyone going to Ladakh this year. There was however no clarification on whether a permit will be needed separately for this route. So a lot of people already tried to travel to the pass without getting a specific permit for it. Some travelers hence were detained by Indian Army.
This entire region is way too close to Indo-China border. Earlier, cameras were not even allowed to be taken to Hanle. You were needed to submit those at the Loma post before going to Hanle. Some people however shot videos of the entire Umling La route and and posted it all over the internet. Maps of the exact location and GPS coordinates of the pass too were shared.
Earlier, visitors were not allowed to travel beyond Hanle but off-late, people have started to venture beyond the village regularly. Photi La has turned into a commonly traveled pass. This too has pushed the hand of administration and Army to deny permits for these places altogether.
Greatest reason however is the growing tension in the area after growing Chinese incursions. The Dokalam standoff with Chinese Army last year became a very big tension for both India and Bhutan. Army is expecting continued trouble from China this year as well so the alert in these sensitive areas is anyways high.
Permit for Shyok road however is not really under question because of the above concerns. Army worked tremendously last year and managed to improve the quality of this road by a great margin. It was once one of the most damaged roads of Ladakh but turned into a smooth sailing last year. Work is expected to be continued this year as well due to which Army may not allowed tourists this way for a certain period; or maybe entire season. So yes, in order to control traffic, there now maybe a need for a permit for Shyok road as well.
Permits for Hanle, Shyok, Chushul
Good news however is that for now, there will not be any problem for getting permits for Shyok road and Chushul route. These will continue to get issued. Bad news is that permit for Hanle as of now stands suspended which also will kill your plans to go to Umling La. More clarification on this will only come in coming few days and I will update here once I receive that information. For now, just do not keep Hanle and Umling La in your respective itineraries. I hope the information above was of help. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask at our Community Forum; or in the comments section below.