Nathu La Pass on Sino-Indian border closes

Updated: 2006-10-15 10:24

LHASA -- Nathu La Pass on Sino-Indian border, which was reopened to trade in early July after having closed for 44 years following a conflict between the two nations, has been shut down again, but temporarily this time, according to an agreement between China and India.

Local sources said, quite a number of business people have chosen to stay behind at Tibet's Yadong, where the border trade market is located, and to seize the winter in making a good preparation for the start of the trading season, said an official with Yadong County Government.

Latest statistics given by the Tibet Autonomous Regional Bureau of Commerce shows that altogether 1.49 million yuan (US$186,250) worth of imports and exports were done at the Renqinggang border trade market in Yadong, Tibet, in the past 51 normal trading days between July 6 and September30.

Commodities traded at the border trade market include gifts, business tools, bedding silk, daily necessities, and zanba, a Tibetan food made of roasted qingke barley flour, for export, and rice, flour, candy and incense for import.

The fact that the meagre volume of border trade with the Renqinggang market has fallen short of the expectations is largely blamed on factors including restrictions placed on commodities for import and export on the part of India, a lack of a unified standards for commodity inspection and quarantine, a limited trading time as a result of the special climate in the Himalayan region, and bad infrastructure.

Reopening of the Nathu La Pass does boost tourism in Yadong. Statistics provided by Yadong County Government says tourists made 7,000 visits to the county by September28 and raked in 1.67 million yuan in revenue, up 53 percent from comparable figure for 2005.

Trade through the Nathu La Pass accounted for 80 percent of total crossborder trade between China and India in the early 1900s. But after their border conflict in 1962, the two countries closed their customs chekck points at the former border markets and the trade route became a tightly guarded frontier with barbed wire.

Previously, more than 90 percent of trade between China and India were shipped by sea instead, and via Tianjin -- a port city some 120 kilometers from Beijing but nearly 4,400 kilometers from Lhasa.

On July 6, China and India reopened border trade through the Nathu La Pass, which sits 4,545 meters above sea level and is wedged between Yadong County in Tibet's Xigaze Prefecture and India's Sikkim State.

With the reopening of the Nathu La Pass, it is only 1,200 kilometers by land from Lhasa to Calcutta, a major Indian coastal city.

When China opened a trade mart at Renqinggang, some 16 kilometers from the Nathu La Pass, India opened the Changgu mart in neighbouring Sikkim. However, while Indian business people can stay up at China's Renqinggang mart for the night, Chinese traders cannot spend the night at the Indian mart.

Both sides have also agreed that the border trade season would be from June through to September.

China does not impose any restrictions on crossborder trade except for illegal items, and hostels have been built to accommodate Indian traders.

India, however, only authorizes the export of 29 kinds of commodities to be exported from India to China, and 15 items to be permitted to enter the Indian market from China.
The year 2006 has been designated the year of Sino-Indian friendship.

Information from the Chinese Ministry of Commerce shows China and India recorded US$18.73 billion of trade last year, up 37.5 percent year-on-year. And the figure is expected to exceed US$20 billion this year.