Gangtok: Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday visited Nathu La area on the China-India border and interacted with army and Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) officials.

However, her scheduled aerial survey of Doklam and forward posts in the border areas of Sikkim was cancelled due to inclement weather, a statement issued by the Department of Information and Public Relations, government of Sikkim, said.

Earlier in the day, state government officials had said the defence minister made an aerial survey of the Doklam-Nathu La area. Sitharaman, on a day’s visit to Sikkim, travelled by road to Nathu La, 52km from Gangtok, and interacted with Army and ITBP officials posted there. “The Union Minister who was scheduled to make her aerial survey of Doklam and forward posts along the Indo-Sino border in Sikkim was cancelled due to inclement weather. However, she made her aerial survey of Gangtok and surrounding areas from the new Greenfield Pakyong Airport in east Sikkim after her return from the Nathu-la Border during the afternoon," the statement said.

Sitharaman was accorded a guard of honor on her arrival at Nathu La. She was also briefed about the security preparedness along the China-India border in the Sikkim sector by the Chief of Eastern Command Lt Gen Abhay Krishna. Vice-chief of Army Lt Gen Sarath Chandra was also present there.

The defence minister’s visit to the border area comes more than a month since Indian and Chinese troops disengaged after nearly a 70-day standoff at Doklam. On her twitter handle, she said Chinese soldiers from across the border took pictures of hers when she reached Nathu La. “Acknowledged a row of Chinese soldiers from across the fence who were taking pictures on my reaching Nathu La," she tweeted.

She later met Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling at his official residence and sought the state government’s intervention in sorting out issues, mostly concerning land, between the army and the state’s forest department. Chamling assured all intervention from the government, the release said.

The chief minister apprised Sitharaman of the hardships being faced by Sikkim due to the ongoing agitation in the neighbouring Darjeeling hills of West Bengal. He said that due to blockades on NH-10, the only national highway that connects the landlocked mountain state, Sikkim has incurred huge economic losses. He reiterated his request to the Centre for speeding up the construction of an new highway to Sikkim.

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