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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Trade between India and Tibet in the Colonial Period

October 17, 2010

Rajen Upadhyay
Voice of Sikkim
October 14, 2010

Ever since I entered the realm of History, past
facts have always been the mesmerizing factors
for me. The history of Sikkim has fairly
hypnotized me at times;and at times it has
perplexed me due to the least paid attention
towards the past glory of this beautiful
forgotten Himalayan Kingdom.This tiny effort will
boost up the passion of knowledge of many.

Nathu-La has played a noteworthy role for the
endorsement of British trade in the colonial era.
It not only served as an access to Tibet for the
British merchandise but from this very doorway
the British haNathu-La has played a noteworthy
role for the endorsement of British trade in the
colonial era. It not only served as an access to
Tibet for the British merchandise but from this
very doorway the British had been able to set up
an amiable relation with the sleeping giant i.e.
China. The picture shows how trade and
communication were undertaken by both the
parties. The chief means of transportation (as
shown in the picture) in those days was of the
mules. We can clearly notice the condition of
roads probably constructed by the British
Government for their trade and commerce in the
far flung land of Tibet. It is to be mention here
that, after having their upper hand in the
administration of Sikkim, they started to
construct the roads and bridges from the
Himalayan Kingdom which connected British India
with Tibet. Even I was told by Mr. A.D. Moddie
that, before the triumph of Communist China over
Tibet, the similar trading features were
prevalent between the two countries. Regarding
the transportation system that was available in Sikkim in 1957 he writes:-

“…As there were only two ways, a trader’s or a
pilgrim’s permit, I opted for the former. I wrote
to our agent in Gangtok, Sikkim, to arrange a
mule and a muleteer for me; I would walk. When I
arrived in Gangtok and enquired about the mule
arrangement, the Agent prevaricated. He shyly
disclosed he had arranged twenty mules. He was
taking advantage of a sahib-type, who also knew
the Political Officer, Gangtok, to send his mules
train in, for greater security, under my
leadership. When I met Apa Pant, the P.O. for my
permit in English, Hindi and Tibetan, I thought I
would amuse him with the story of one mule
becoming twenty. Apa Pant saw no humor in it. In
serious official style, he advised me to take all
twenty mules saying, “One mule no status, twenty mules status”.

The writings of Moddie are justified by the
documentation preserved by Das Studio Darjeeling.
It probably is the only document potted in India
associated with Tibetan trade.

We are grateful to the proprietors of Das Studio
for preserving the antiques which are so prized to peep inside our past.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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