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Demand to Broaden List of Tradable Items through Nathu La

May 4, 2009

By Syed Zarir Hussain
May 3, 2009

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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