Tuesday, June 05, 2007

China wants more shops and less men in uniform at Nathu la

China wants more shops and less men in uniform at Nathu la

NATHULA, JUN 4 : A four-member Chinese delegation, led by Bu Jiango, the Chinese embassy counselor in New Delhi, did not like the Indian Army camps at the 14,400 feet Nathula in Sikkim sharing border with China.

In a research trip to Nathula on Monday, Jiango said there should be shops displaying Indian and Chinese products instead of Army camps at the Serathang Mart and Nathula, which will help to improve relations between the two countries.


“Why is there so much of army posted between Serathang Mart and Nathula. China is a peace-loving nation. We want to improve the people-to-people contact and this can happen with greater trade,” Jiango said. At present, there are eight shops at the Serathang Mart (13,600 ft), selling Indian and Chinese goods.

She said Sikkim and Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) have close cultural ties, which should be nurtured.

The delegation crossed the Nathula border and entered TAR on Monday to visit Renqinnggang, a Chinese trade mart. They will stay overnight at Yatung, a Tibetan town 30km from Renqinnggang, and come back to Gangtok on Tuesday.

The team is likely to meet the Sikkim chief minister, Dr Pawan Chamling, before they submit their report to the Chinese government on the problems faced by Sino-Indian trade through Nathula.

The team is holding discussions with Indian as well as Chinese traders.

Anil Gupta, joint secretary of the India-China Traders' Association ( ICTA), said Although the Union government has raised the ceiling of a single consignment to China to Rs 1 lakh from Rs 25,000, the Chinese government is allowing export of up to 3000 yuan (Rs 18,000) in a single consignment.

ICTA president Chemi Renjing said despite government's focus on the Sino-Indian trade through Nathula, the volume is not picking up.

Custom officials posted at the Serathang Mart said not more than 8-9 traders come to the Indian side per day and take away only small quantity of goods from Serathang.

In the second round of trade, which started on May 1, 2007, total business so far has been worth Rs 3 lakh and that too only through rice and some tea out of the 28 enlisted items. There was not a single import from China in the first month of the second round of trade, which will continue till October 2007.

ICTA vice-president DD Mundra said of the 15 items listed as importable goods from China, eight items such as sheep skin, goat skin, yak hair, yak tail, live horses and sheep, China clay, are obsolete. Items like silk and wool, which are in heavy demand, can't be imported as the Sikkim government does not allow raw materials to be taken out of the state.

The first round of trade halted at Rs 19 lakh. However, the Centre is planning to develop trade infrastructure and will put in more than Rs 853 crore in the next two years.

Sikkim industry director SP Subba, who accompanied the Chinese team up to Nathula, said the Union government has sanctioned Rs 783 crore to the border road organisation for making the Gangtok-Nathula road double-lane, and Rs 70 crore to the state PWD for expanding facilities at the Serathang Mart.

In the next two years, the mart will have at least 200 permanent constructions against 28 at present, Subba said.