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China, India raise national flags at border pass to restart business
www.chinaview.cn 2006-07-06 10:08:52

    NATHU LA PASS, Tibet, July 6 (Xinhua) -- China and India raised their national flags and played national anthems Thursday morning on the two sides of their borderline at Nathu La Pass.

    The two countries will hold a ceremony later to restart border trade through the pass, a historic trading route that has been closed for 44 years after a border conflict between the two countries.

    The pass bathed in glory Thursday as officials and businesspeople from both sides of the borderline gathered and waited for the historic moment.

    Gone is the barbed wire fence that had separated the two neighbors for the past 44 years and in its place is now a 10-meter wide, stone walled passageway waiting for merchants from both sides to go through.

    A red banner has been put up on the Chinese side of the borderline, with Chinese characters reading "Warmest congratulations to the reopening of Sino-Indian Nathu La Pass border trade route".

    On the Indian side is a yellow banner reading "Welcome to NathuLa".

    Officials of the two countries agreed last month that Thursday is the date to open up two border trade markets -- the Renqinggang market in Yadong County of Tibet's Xigaze Prefecture and Changgu mart in India's state of Sikkim.

    People in Yadong and Sikkim share many similarities in their dialects and ways of life.

    After border trade resumes, Chinese silk, yak tails, goat skin, wool, cashmere, household electric appliances and herb are expected to enter the Indian market via the pass while India's farm produce and livestock will hopefully be sold to China.

    "I'd like to start trade with my Indian neighbors soon," said Basang, a 25-year-old vendor in Yadong.

    Renqinggang market, 16 km northeast of the Nathu La Pass, is a 6,000-square-meter project with a 1,700-square-meter parking area. It has an inspection and quarantine center, warehouse, customs checkpoint, bank, post office and restaurant.

    The market will open from Monday through Thursday between June 1 and Sept. 30 every year and the business hours will last from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., said officials in Yadong county of Xigaze Prefecture, where the market is located.

    Wang Huatian, a private business owner from east China's Zhejiang Province, has leased a booth at the market to sell clothes. "I heard months ago that China and India were to reopen the border pass."

    Wang said he will invest several million yuan here if business proves good.

    Thursday's reopening of the border pass is expected to give a major boost to bilateral trade between the two most populous countries and help China create a direct channel to the India Ocean, experts said.

    Trade in this area accounted for 80 percent of the total border trade volume between China and India in the early 1900s. Trading through the pass was suspended in 1962 after a border conflict.

    "The reopening of border trade will help end economic isolation in this area and play a key role in boosting market economy there," said Hao Peng, vice chairman of the autonomous region.

    "It will also boost the transportation, construction and service industries, paving the way for a major trade route that connects China and south Asia," Hao added.

    "The resumption of border trade is a great historic event, not only for enlarging trade, but also for greater relations between the two great countries," said Dr. Christy Fernandez, additional secretary of the Indian Department of Commerce.

    The resumption of border trade reflects the improved ties between China and India, said Professor Liu Jiangyong with the institute of international studies of the Beijing-based Qinghua University.

    He said that China and India have been exploring ways of mutual beneficial cooperation in the economic and trade fields, adding the accord on the guidelines for border demarcation signed in 2005by the two countries created a peaceful environment.

    The two countries marked 2006 as the year of Sino-Indian friendship.

    China and India recorded 18.73 billion U.S. dollars of trade in 2005, up 37.5 percent year-on-year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. The figure is expected to exceed 20 billion U.S. dollars this year.

    Currently most goods are shipped by sea.

    Tibet Autonomous Region imports from and exports to India via Tianjin, a port city in the north which is thousands of kilometers away.

    Tibet is expected to benefit much from the resumption of border trade at the Nathu La Pass, Hao Peng said.

    "If only 10 percent of Sino-Indian trade goes through the pass it means at least more than one billion U. S. dollars a year."

    Last year the foreign trade volume of Tibet was 200 million U.S. dollars. Enditem

Editor: Mo Hong'e
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