Traders not enthusiastic to 3rd Nathu La trade season

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Gangtok, Apr 29 (UNI) Sikkim is organising a function at Sherathang trade mart to formally mark the opening of Nathu La border trade season between Sikkim and Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) on May 1.

The trade mart is located some 10 km away from the international Nathu La border and has been developed for the Silk Route trade which was accorded a rapturous resumption on July 6, 2006 after 44 years.

However, the opening celebrations have gradually scaled down and the inauguration of the third edition of Nathu La border trade along the mountainous corridor will be a low key affair.

''We are organizing a simple programme at Sherathang trade mart to welcome the traders from Tibet Autonomous Region,'' said Ujwal Gurung, Director, state industries and commerce department which looks after the border trade.

The Director added that trading might be limited to enquiries on both sides in the first few days.

The third edition of the seven month Nathu La border begins on May one. The trading season lasts till November and is allowed five days a week.

Sikkim had also been caught in the global anti-Chinese protests with several hundred Tibetans marching right upto the Rangpo border last month demanding entry to TAR from the Nathu La border.

It was at this juncture that speculations on the border trade began as Sikkim has a sizeable Tibetan population.

''The Union Ministry of Commerce and Industries has told us that we can go ahead with the normal trading season,'' said Mr.Gurung.

Meanwhile, the East District administration has received 77 applications for trade license from the local traders till today.

Trade license for the border trade is issued by the East District administration.

''Nobody has been issued trade licenses so far as we are awaiting verification and other formalities to finish,'' said Dr.A.B.Karki, SDM (East).

However, the trading community has not evoked much enthusiasm on the third Nathu La season.

''Business has always been poor in the last two seasons. We think that trading will be much worse this time,'' said Chimi Rinzing Bhutia, president of Indo-China Traders Association of Sikkim (ICTAS).

Last year, trading of Rs.34.6 lakhs between Sikkimese and TAR traders was done for seven months from May to November.

The sole reason for this low volume was attributed to the 'Jurrasic' era list of items allowed for trade--15 for imports which include yak tails, wool, goat skins and sheep skins and 29 exportable items.

The traders and authorities from both sides have been demanding expansion of the list from the Union government.

UNI BG PL RL ND1718

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