Dismal start to Nathu La border trade between India, China

May 4th, 2009 - 9:19 pm ICT by IANS  

By Anand Oberoi
Nathu La (Sikkim), May 4 (IANS) The fourth season of the border trade between India and China through the fabled Silk Road resumed Monday, although bureaucratic red tape from the Indian side led to traders failing to reach the other side of the border.

The inability of the district collectorate’s office to provide the 62-odd Indian traders with “travel passes” resulted in a deadlock forcing all of them to cancel visiting the trade mart on the Chinese side.

However, 60 Chinese traders arrived here in 10 trucks, although they too were disappointed when Indian customs officials refused entry of their items as those goods were not in conformity to the list of tradable items agreed upon by the two countries.

The Chinese traders shopped for petty items at the trade mart on the Indian side and returned in the evening.

“We are happy that trade has resumed and were excited till we were stopped by the Indian officers and were disallowed to bring in our items. Even then we decided to come to the Indian side of the trade mart at Sherathang as a goodwill gesture as we have developed a good relation with the traders from India in the past three years,” said Kesang Diki, a representative of the traders’ body from Yatung Province in Tibet.

The Chinese want India to review the list of tradable items.

“We have been asking the Indian traders to ask their government to resolve this concern as trading on a limited list is not feasible, and as business people we want to make profits from the trade,” said Sonam Gyatso, another Chinese trader.

“If we keep up with this rate of trade we shall not even be able to pay the trucks that we have hired for carrying out trade,” Gyatso said.

“The government of India is pro-active in its approach and is pushing towards open trade. We are slowly and steadily developing infrastructure and so far the response of the Chinese side has also been very good,” said Ujjwal Gurung, director of the commerce and industries department.

The two Asian giants in July 2006 re-opened trade across the 15,000-feet (4,545-meter) 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 an agreement reached between the two countries 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.

The sluggish border trade between the two countries is 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.

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