Opinion / Commentary

Opening a new silk road
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-06-21 06:25

The warming Sino-Indian relationship has melted snow that has been blocking the only border pass for land trade between the two nations for 44 years.

Earlier this week, China and India decided to reopen the Nathu La pass early next month. Border markets will also be set up on both sides.

The pass, which used to witness 80 per cent of trade between the two countries, was closed after the 1962 border clash.

As the two nations celebrate the "Year of Sino-Indian Friendship," the re-opening of the pass is more than a symbolic move, it reflects the rapprochement between the two countries.

They are also economic benefits to reap. In the short term, the re-opening of the pass will immediately boost trade between people living in the area.

That will create a favourable atmosphere for general bilateral trade, which was worth US$19 billion in 2005.

Both of the world's two biggest developing nations are believed to have enormous growth potential. Economically, they also have much to exchange and a great deal of fields in which to co-operate.

In a world where economic co-operation is playing an ever-greater role, the long-term implications of this reactivated road link will be very profound.

Goods traded between China and India currently have to travel thousands of kilometres by sea from southern India to ports in eastern China.

Upon the opening of the pass, a thoroughfare will run from the tip of the Indian subcontinent all the way up to Tibet. The route will be connected to China's railway network at Lhasa, at the end of the newly built Qinghai-Tibet Railway.

Understandably, this new "silk road" offers great potential for the development of Sino-Indian trade. It could also form an important link between South Asia and East Asia.

Visionary people have raised the compelling idea of an integrated Asian community, including both the East Asian and South Asian economies.

Asian economic integration remains at an early stage, but major Asian economies have all expressed support for this concept.

So the re-opening of a small pass on the Himalayas should not only be welcomed by the Chinese and Indian peoples, but also by people throughout the continent.

(China Daily 06/21/2006 page4)