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Rediff.com  » Business » Nathu La trade resumes amid much fanfare

Nathu La trade resumes amid much fanfare

May 5, 2009 17:38 IST

Nathu La trade resumes amid much fanfare

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The fourth edition of the annual border trade at the Sino-Indian frontier in Sikkim resumed on May 5 after a six-month long winter break amid an expectation that the governments of two countries will review the goods list to make the business more viable.

The border trade through the historical silk route at Nathu La had resumed three years ago on July 6, 2006 after a long gap of 44 years.

Text: PTI


Image: A general view of the Nathu La
Photographs: Desmond Boylan/Reuters
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The annual border trade is restricted for participation of the traders from Sikkim and Tibet Autonomous Region only and the goods list for trade restricted to 29 items from India and 15 items from across the border.

Under the bilateral agreement, the Indian traders visit Renguingang mart in TAR to buy goods from there, while their counterparts from across the border come to Sherathang Mart in Sikkim for trading.


Image: Indian press scramble towards China's border during the opening of trade between India and China
Photographs: Desmond Boylan/Reuters
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Nathu La trade resumes amid much fanfare

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The traders of the two countries are issued Import-Export Code Number and security passes by their respective authorities to enable them to visit the trade marts.

In spite of various restrictions put in place for the limited trade through Nathu La, the total value of the traded goods last year had stood at Rs 9.6 million.

However, at that time, the poor import figure from TAR at about Rs 1,50,000 had raised a question mark over the viability of the trade in view of the existing goods list.


Image: A soldier stands at the gate near Nathu La
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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Meanwhile, the Sikkim government organised a function at Sherathang Mart on May 5 to mark the formal inauguration of the fourth edition of the bilateral border trade. The function was attended by the official delegations of the two countries as well as the traders, trade and industries director Ujjwal Gurung said.

"There is a tremendous enthusiasm among the Indian traders for participation in the border trade this time", he said.

Some 50 traders have applied for IEC and security passes from the East Sikkim authorities to enable them to participate at the border trade, the official said.


Image: Chinese workers prepare a road along the India-China route at Nathu La
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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Nathu La trade resumes amid much fanfare

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While the Nathu La border trade chugs on, the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce and the Indo-Chinese Traders Association of Sikkim have urged the government of the two countries for urgent revision of the goods on the trade list to add commercial value to the business.

Most of the items listed in the schedule are obsolete and lack commercial value, S K Sarda, a representative of the traders bodies, said.


Image: Tourists walk on snow at the 4,310 metre high Nathu La
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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Besides the revision of the goods list, the Centre on its part should consider lifting the restriction on consumption of the imported goods from TAR to Sikkim as it has limited consumers even as the markets are already choked with goods imported last year, Sarda said, adding the freedom to sell goods throughout the country will make the commerce viable for the Indian traders.

The state government too has requested the Centre several times for revision of the goods' list to make the bilateral border trade more viable and sustainable for the traders, officials said.

If the Centre does not consider the demand, then Nathu La trade may become more of a symbolic event than a serious business activity, the officials said.


Image: A labourer carries a sandbag at Nathu La
Photographs: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters
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