Indo-China trade through Nathu La to start as per schedule

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Gangtok, Apr 7 (UNI) The third edition of annual border trade between Sikkim and Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) of China through the 14,400 -ft Nathu La pass in East Sikkim will commence undeterred as per schedule.

The Indo-China trade via Nathu La is expected to start on the scheduled date of May 1. However, China's view on this year's trade was yet to be known.

Speaking to UNI, Sikkim Commerce and Industries Minister R B Subba confirmed that trade through Nathu La will begin on the scheduled date three weeks from now.

''There has been no adverse communication regarding the trade so far from the Centre and it indicates that we can go ahead as per schedule,'' Mr Subba said.

Last year, business to the tune of Rs 34.6 lakh between Sikkimese and TAR traders was transacted for eight months from May to November.

Director of State Commerce and Industry Department Ujwal Gurung said the Union Commerce Ministry had notified that trade would take place from May 1 to November 30 and there was no change in the schedule this year.

''The date remains the same and it will open as per schedule.

There is no change till date,'' Mr Gurung said.

However, the travel passes to the Sikkimese traders were yet to be issued from the East District Collector's office.

The District Collector (East) was the authorised official to issue the passes.

''We have not started issuing travel passes so far and are awaiting communication from the state government. However, what we will do is to issue the application forms in advance so that there is ample time for verification,'' said East District Collector Vishal Chauhan.

''The verification for the travel passes for the Nathu La border trade is carried out by the Intelligence Bureau. It's forwarded to them by the District Collector's office after receipt of the application,'' he stated.

Last month, Tibetan from the North East region and the North Bengal region had led a long march from Siliguri to the border town of Rangpo in East Sikkim in a bid to enter China through the high pass and join the uprising there.

The marchers withdrew after an emissary was sent from the Dalai Lama asking them to withdraw.

This attempt by the Tibetans had also forced a brief ban for tourists to visit Nathu La border and was reopened for sightseeing purposes only sometimes back.

Another issue of concern that the authorities issuing travel passes might face was the scrutiny of those applying for travel passes as a large number of people engaged in the border trade hailed from Tibetan origin.

The border trade through Nathu La was reopened in July 2006 after a period of 42 years since it was closed in 1962 during the Indo-China conflict.

UNI BG SJC SBA PM1919

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