by Li Baodong, Fu Shuangqi
NATHU LA PASS/NEW DELHI, July 6 (Xinhua) --
Officials, businessmen and media people from both China and India gathered at
Nathu la Pass along the border between China' Tibet and India's Sikkim Thursday
to hold a grand ceremony of resuming border trade after a standstill of 44
WIRED FENCE REPLACED BY
Wired fences, used to block the two sides, have been
replaced by the 20-meter-long stone-walled passageway. At its both ends banners
were hung high for the reopening border trade ceremony.
Six km down from Nathu La Pass, 4,545 meters above
the sea level, lies a small village named Sherathang, now the main business hub
for Chinese to trade the commodities in Indian side. In an area of 3.24
hectares, 29 tin sheds have been built to hold offices for customs, immigration
and quarantine, security post, post office, a telecommunication center and a
branch of the State Bank of India.
China has placed its trade mart at Renqinggang, some
10 km from Nathu La Pass in Chinese side.
"This is the beginning of a new era of hope and
prosperity and the improving of bilateral ties between both nations,"Qiangba
Puncog, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said in his remarks at the
On the same occasion, Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan
Kumar Chamling said, "this is not just a trade route, but a cultural highway. It
will take India-China trade to new heights."
A Chinese delegation of about 100 Tibetan businessmen
has crossed over the pass to the Indian side while a group of 100 Indian traders
visited the trade mart at Renqinggang.
According to the agreements between the two
countries, the normal trade will begin at Nathu La Pass on June 1 each year and
continue till Sept. 30 before the heavy snow and freezing weather makes the pass
During the trading season, the pass will open from
Monday to Thursday each week from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
"A total of 100 traders and 60 trucks carrying goods
will be allowed to operate from either side of the border," said Saman Prasad
Subba, Director of Industries of Sikkim.
According to Chinese ambassador to India Sun Yuxi,
China expects the border will soon open for tourists and a bus service from
Gangtok, the state capital of Sikkim, to Lhasa, capital of Tibet, will open very
WELCOMED BY INDIANS
"We are so happy today as we have looked forward to
it long before," said Mamhjer, 47-year-old Sikkimese merchant and one of Indian
businessmen to visit Yadong in Tibet through Nathu La Pass Thursday.
Mamhjer's family has done business with Tibet for
generations. His parents had once lived in Yadong for five years and his elder
sister was born there.
"My papa passed away last year, otherwise he would be
with me to go to Yadong today," Mamhjer said, adding that his father had been
excited and planned to go back to Yadong a few years ago when the news of
reopening first spread.
The volume of trade would increase by at least 15-20
percent in next two years, according to the research of the Sikkim government.
As the trade progresses, the two countries are going
to look at the feasibility of upgrading the tradable items though now only 44
items of commodities are allowed through Nathu La Pass and India only issues
trade permits to local Sikkimese residents.
"The reopening of border trade is seen as an
instrument for economic development for this region," Chamling said.
In Gangtok many people are very much curious about
China and show great interest in shopping Chinese goods which are less expensive
with good quality.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi where conservatives were
concerned about defense security related to Nathu La Pass reopening, some agreed
with local residents in Sikkim.
"India and China should have resumed the border trade
at NathuLa Pass earlier. The world is different now. Who wants a war?" said
Vijay Kumar, an Indian businessmen in New Delhi having traded iron ore with
China for a long time.
Nathu La Pass reopening also make it possible to
build a trade corridor linking northwest China, even central Asia, to the Indian
Ocean as the Qinghai-Tibet railway happens to start operation on July 1.
"The smooth corridor will benefit both China and
India and help make a close cooperative mechanism between the two countries,
"said Srikanth Kondapalli, expert with India's Institute for Defense Studies and
HISTORY CASTS ITS
For centuries, Chinese and Indian merchants had
shipped Chinese silk, tea and Indian jewelry, spices in and out of Nathu La
Pass, an old trade point along the Silk Road.
In the early twentieth century, the trade volume here
had once accounted for 80 percent of the total trade volume between the two
But the pass had become a heavily guarded border
after the border dispute between the two countries since 1962.
It is heavily guarded even now. It took about 3 hours
to drive 50 km from Gangtok to Nathu La Pass passing seven army checkpoints. All
the way there are cantonments.
The reopening of Nathu La Pass was first raised when
then Indian Prime Minister Vajpayee visited China in 2003. The proposal was
strongly opposed by Indian military circles.
The new cabinet of India, taking office in 2004, had
not nodded on the reopening due to security concerns till mid last year.