By Syed Zarir Hussain
Nathu La (Sikkim) : Bilateral trade between India and China through the fabled Silk Road has resumed a month earlier than scheduled, with traders of both countries keen to boost business.
“Trading was earlier scheduled to begin June 1 and last until Sep 30. But the two countries agreed to demands by traders to allow business from May 1 to Nov 30,” Sikkim Director of Industry and Commerce Saman Prasad Subba said Thursday.
India and China in July last year reopened trade across the 15,000 feet 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 neighbours since a bitter border war in 1962.
“A total of 29 Chinese traders came to the Indian side with tradable items, while 13 people from India crossed over to China to do business in the first two days of trading,” Subba told IANS.
Latest figures released by Tibet’s commerce department said bilateral trade in the first season through Nathu La saw business worth 1.49 million yuan ($190,000 million).
In the same period from July 6 to Sep 30 last year, Indian traders did business worth Rs.1.2 million ($26,109).
Although two-way trade was slow last year, about 900 Chinese traders crossed the border separated by a rusty barbed wire marker to the bazaar of Sherathang, five kilometre below the pass on the Indian side. About 400 Indian traders headed to the Renqinggang interim market in Tibet on the Chinese side, 16 km from the border.
Under the deal signed last year to open the pass for four days a week from Monday to Thursday, 15 items were approved for import from China such as silk and yak pelts and horses, while India could export 29 items from textiles to tea, rice, vegetables and herbs.
“The present list of import-export should be amended and widened to meet the need of the present age. The list of goods notified for transaction is a list prepared long back and has to be upgraded,” S.K. Sarda, president of the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce, said in a report submitted to the Sikkim government.
The Sikkim government is taking up the matter with New Delhi to help hopes for booming trade across the roof of the world.
“We understand the governments of the two countries were actively considering revising the tradable items list to make business at the border more robust and vibrant,” Subba said.
Indian Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh during his recent visit to Nathu La suggested a ‘negative list’ instead of selected items for trade between the two countries.
The Sikkim government has also urged New Delhi to sing a pact with Beijing to allow tourists to use the border pass.
“At present only traders are allowed to cross over and if tourism is opened it would be economically beneficial for both the countries,” the official said.