Reopening of Nathu La gives mixed responses
Nathu La (Indo China Border), Jul 6: The historic Nathu La, which was reopened today after years of deliberations and discussions between the two countries, evoked mixed reactions from the people on its possible impact and prospectives.
While some people felt that the reopening of the trade will reduce military tension, bring economic development, generate employment, increase revenue and improve people to people contact some others apprehended that it would lead to price rise, advesely affect the business community, cause migration, influx and pose a serious threat to the national security.
Mr B B Gooroong, a veteran politician and advisor to Chief Minister Pawan Chamling said the reopening of the trade route will trigger investment activities in Sikim and adjacent areas, expand market, lead to economic development and benefit regions located in both sides of the border.
Sikkim Pradesh Congress Committee president Nar Bhadur Bhandari said the reopening of the trade route would do more harm than good to the country. It would pose a serious threat to the security of the country and affect the businessmen adversely as they would not be able to compete with the cheap Chinese goods that would flood the market.
He said the reopening of the trade route is not in the interest of the state as the Sikkimese people have nothing to gain from it.
He said the state is not yet ready for the bilateral trade as the infrastructure particularly the road connectivity is not developed to take the burden of trade.
Mr Rit Karan Thirany, a business of the 1950 agreed. The 76-year-old businessman, who had a roaring business with Tibet before the Sino-Indian conflict, brought it to an abrupt end apprehended that the reopening of the trade route would give rise to spy and smuggling activities.
Mr Thirany, running a chemist shop in the capital town Gangtok, warned the authorities not to trust the Chinese and tread cautiously as " they have already stabbed us on our back when we extended our hand for peace freindship and coperation".
Mr Thirany said the reopening of the trade would also affect the commonman as the prices of some essentials like kerosene oil, vegetable, rice figured in the exportable items list likely to go up. Movement of large number of vehicles and people would also affect the environment and pollute the area, he said. But Mr Goorong allayed the fears saying the state government with the help of the Centre had taken steps to tackle all the negative impact of the trade.
He appealed to people to be vigilant against the forces trying to take advantage of the opportunities generated due to the reopening of trade route and misappropriate things. He said with emphasis that the reopening of the trade route will benefit both India and China.
Sikkim Chamber of Commerce president S K Sarda described the reopening of the trade route as a win-win situation for both countries. " There is only profit and no loss to anyone, " he said.
Mr Sarda said the people will be benefited most as the trade is limited to the traders of Sikkim for the initial five years. He said a number of factories had already come up and many others are on the pipeline. It would generate employment opportunities and revenue.
The agriculture products will find a market in Tibet and the economy will grow.
Sikkim Travel Agents Association of Sikkim secretary Lukendra Rasaily said the reopening of the Nathu La pass would give a boost to the tourism sector soon.
He said the tour and travel operators were now flooded with a lot of queries since the date for the reopening of the trade route was finalised even though tourism was not included in the agreement now.
Mr Rasaily hoped both countries would soon sign another agreement integrating tourism with trade. He said tourists would prefer to visit China through Nathu La in Sikkim as it is peaceful, tourist- friendly, full of sceneic beauty, short in distance in comparison to the present route that passes through Nepal.
Sikkim BJP president H R Pradhan said the reopening of the Nathu La was a contribution of the NDA government and it should have been reopened much earlier. But Mr Pradhan feared that trade might suffer as the state government had not developed the infrastructure particularly the road for conducting the trade so far.
Had the state government listened to the centre and submitted proposal for an alternative road then it would have been completed by now, he said.
Mr Motilal Lakhotia, a leading businessman, expressed happiness over the reopening of the trade route and said though not now the trade through Nathu La would defintely gain momentum over a period of time and benefit all, particularly the traders and people of Sikkim.