Saturday, April 08, 2006

Trade on high - China and India shake on the Netu La Pass

Sikimese Woman, from Nat Geo 3.1963MD
A long time in coming and remarkably little press to hail its arrival.

India and China will soon begin trading (amidst the snow and clouds) in an area closed to tourists since 1963 and only open a few days of a week to Indian nationals since then. (The post between the two nations is exchanged on Thursdays and Sundays only.)

Writing about the pass in his 1963 National Geographic feature on Sikkim (photo below shows Edmund Hillary's widow, Lady Louise approaching the pass, and Tibet, just before its final sealing-off.), Desmond Doig writes:
"...I unwittingly stepped on Tibetan territory and was thoroughly photographed by a Chinese officer wearing an out-size sun bonnet. He could have arrested me for illegally entering Tibet. Since then I have felt like a marked person, with a dossier in Peking."

Doig quotes then ambassador to the US, BK Nehru describing the road as:
"probably the easiest invasion route" from China to India.

Natu La Pass photo, from Nat Ge 3.1963


So there you have it - China and India, 3 decades in, at peace over a pass. Letting bygones go in the name of good commerce...

KEY CHINA-INDIA TRADE ROUTE THROUGH SIKKIM TO OPEN FROM JUNE
Date: 07/04/2006
Publication: Asia Pulse

BEIJING, Apr 7 - China yesterday announced that a vital trade market on the strategic Sino-India border along Sikkim would open twice a week from June, setting up the first direct trade link between the two countries since the 1962 war.
"The 6,400-sq-mt market, named Dongqinggang, is located by the mountain road 16 kms from the 4,545-mt high Nathu La Pass, where Yatung County of China's Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Sikkim State meet," the official Xinhua news agency reported, signalling that China has recognised Sikkim as part of India.

According to reports from the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, the market would open twice a week from June for four hours a day after its construction is completed.

"Construction is going on at a brisk pace and 60 per cent of it has been completed. Everything should be finished before the deadline"... Construction of roads leading to Nathu La Pass is also under way, but the area is often clogged by heavy snows. A total of 1,550 workers are now working on site to try to finish it in time.

Nathu La Pass, which used to be a 'hot spot' for trade between China and India, accounted for over 80 per cent of total border trade at the beginning of the 20th century. But trading over the Pass was suspended in 1962.


(Both photos, National Geohraphic, March 1963 by Desmond Doig and William Hubbell)

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