Saturday, June 02, 2007


GANGTOK, June 1: The second phase of the Nathula Border trade completed one month of trading yesterday and it’s been a disappointing beginning.

Despite the hype and the hoopla surrounding the Border trade, given its historic significance and the efforts of the Sikkim Government in making it happen, actual trading over the Nathula Pass has failed to set the cash registers ringing. Sources have revealed that during the last one month, while exports were worth about Rs. 3 Lakhs over the Nathula Pass, the imports from the other side of the fence stood at a miserable Re.0.

Which means, while Indian traders did some business, the Chinese traders on the other hand did no business at all.

This dismal start can be attributed to the items listed for trading between India and China over the Nathula Pass, which is one of the major lacunas faced by traders from both sides. The items listed for trade, which is still based on trading that used to take place in the 50s and 60s, is practically redundant in today’s market dictums and needs immediate revision and expansion. Some of the items listed for imports from China include Yak tails, goat skins, sheep skins, goats, sheep, horses, salt and butter.

With little or no business, Chinese traders are hardly seen at the Sherathang mart on the Indian side. The scenario with the Indian traders is no better. Only a handful of the traders are passing through the Border. Five traders on an average are crossing over to Donqingang Trade Mart in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) on a daily basis. “There is absolutely nothing we can bring over to India from Donqingang. Although we have done some amount of business, it is the Chinese traders who are at a loss,” one Indian trader said.

Earlier, the Central Government raised the daily ceiling on trade, thus meeting one of the major demands of the local traders. The Union Commerce Ministry, on May 2, lifted the restriction of trade limit of Rs. 25,000 per day per trader and raise the trading limit to Rs. 1 lakh. The Central Government has also agreed to issue Import-Export Code required for the traders without Permanent Account Number (PAN) for Sikkim traders based on VAT/Sales Tax registration issued by the Commercial Taxes Department of the Sikkim Government. PAN is not issued to the Sikkim residents as there are not Central Direct Taxes extended in the State.

With a four-member Chinese delegation is expected to arrive in Sikkim on June 3, some of the major problems faced by the traders from both the countries is expected to come up for discussion. The Chinese delegation is scheduled to arrive at the Nathula Post on June 4 and visit the Sherathang Trade Mart, 6 kms ahead of Nathula on the JN Road. Later, the delegation will cross over the Border to and visit the Donqingang Trade Mart in TAR on June 4 before returning the next day. They are also likely to inspect the infrastructure available for trade on both sides of the Border.

Local traders are hopeful that the Chinese delegation’s interaction with the State Government officials and local traders engaged in Border Trade will resolve of the pending issues. Review and expansion of listed items for trade has been a pending demand amongst the traders on both sides and the Chinese delegation is expected to address this issue.