Demand to broaden list of tradable items through Nathu La

May 3rd, 2009 - 3:29 pm ICT by IANS  

By Syed Zarir Hussain
Nathu La (Sikkim), May 3 (IANS) Indian trade bodies Sunday urged New Delhi to review the list of tradable items to boost business with China, a day before trading between the two countries resumes through the fabled Silk Road.

Border trade between the two countries is sluggish due to restrictions in tradable items - India can import 15 items from China including silk, yak pelts and horses, and export 29 goods that include textiles, tea, rice, vegetables and herbs.

“The list remains obsolete and we have urged the Commerce Ministry to review this list immediately so that a viable and vibrant trade can start through Nathu La,” S.K. Sarda, president of the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce, told IANS.

“The Chinese traders have been selling just yak pelts and sheep wool. It is imperative that the two countries decide to review the present export-import list,” he said.

“The list of tradable items should be increased and include commodities like locally made beer, medicines, jam, processed food products, and floricultural and horticultural products so that business grows,” said an official of the Nathu La Traders’ Association.

Business people from both sides of the border were also seeking a broadening of the list of items traded through the pass.

The two Asian giants July 2006 re-opened trade across the 15,000-feet (4,545-metre) Nathu La Pass, 52 km east of Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, as part of a broader rapprochement. The move marked the first direct trade link between the nuclear-armed neighbours since a bitter border war in 1962.

Under the agreement, trade takes place four days a week — Monday to Thursday — beginning May each year and lasting until November 30 when snow makes the area impassable.

Last year, the two countries did business worth about Rs.9.6 million, while in 2007 the volume of trade was to the tune of Rs.2.6 million. Bilateral trade in the first season in 2006 through Nathu La saw business worth about Rs.2 million.

“There would be a small commemorative function Monday to mark the resumption of border trade for the fourth season between the two countries,” Ujjwal Gurung, Sikkim’s director of industries and commerce, said.

Although two-way trade was slow in the first three seasons, about 1,900 Chinese traders crossed the border separated by a rusty barbed wire marker to the bazaar of Sherathang, five kilometers below the pass on the Indian side.

About 1,200 Indian traders headed to the Renqinggang interim market in Tibet on the Chinese side, 16 km from the border, during the first three seasons.

Beijing in 2003 gave up its territorial claim over the Indian state of Sikkim, but was still holding on to its age old stand that a vast stretch of Arunachal Pradesh belongs to them.

China has never recognized the 1914 boundary, known as the McMahon Line, and claims 90,000 sq km — nearly all — of Arunachal Pradesh in India’s northeast. India also accuses China of occupying 38,000 sq km in Kashmir.

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