China and India last month reopened cross border trade through
the Himalayan Nathu La Pass but business was running at a "low
level" and was "not ideal," a Chinese official said Thursday.
"India has unilaterally imposed restrictions on trade through
Nathu La," said Hao Peng, vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, when meeting with a
visiting Indian media delegation in the regional capital of
Hao said that India authorized the export of only 29 items to
China and a mere 15 items were permitted to enter the Indian
market from China.
When China opened a trade mart at Renqinggang, 16 kilometers
from the Nathu La Pass, India opened the Changgu market in
neighboring Sikkim. However, while Indian business people could
stay at the Renqinggang mart Chinese traders couldn't spend the
night in India, Hao said.
China and India reopened border trade through the Nathu La Pass
on July 6, 44 years after a border conflict closed down the ancient
"Silk Road". The Pass sits 4,545 meters above sea level and is
wedged between Yadong County in Tibet's Xigaze Prefecture and
India's Sikkim State.
Previously more than 90 percent of trade between China and India
was by sea and via Tianjin -- a port city some 120 kilometers
from Beijing but nearly 4,400 kilometers from Lhasa.
With the reopening of the Pass it's only 1,200 kilometers by
land from Lhasa to Calcutta which is a major Indian coastal
Analysts consider the reopening of the trade route to be an
important development in Sino-Indian relations and expect the two
sides to develop political trust as well as trade and economic
The Pass would help shape a major land trade route linking China
with South Asia and reduce transportation costs, according to Liu
Jiangyong, an international studies specialist with Tsinghua
University in Beijing.
"Trade at the Renqinggang mart is currently less than 100,000
yuan (US$12,500) per week...much less than we had expected," Hao
said. China didn't impose any restrictions on cross border trade
except for illegal items and hostels had been built to accommodate
Indian traders, he said. "I hope the Indian government will adopt a
more egalitarian approach to cross border trade with China," added
The Indian delegation leader, Ranjan Roy, editor of The
Times of India, a major newspaper, said India might have
some concerns about low-price Chinese products flooding the Indian
market. He suggested the two governments communicate more with each
other on this issue and work out common solutions.
"I can sense China's enthusiasm to promote border trade with
India," he said. "Given the remarkable potential the two sides
should deepen their cooperation on the issue."
Trade through the Pass accounted for 80 percent of total cross
border trade between the two countries in the early 1900s. But
after the border conflict in 1962 they closed their customs points
at the former border markets and the trade route became a tightly
guarded frontier post.
In the final years of the 20th century Sino-Indian relations
started to thaw and in 2003 the two countries agreed to reopen
markets at the Nathu La Pass. And China approved plans to build a
border market in Yadong last year.
During Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to India last year the two
countries vowed to establish a strategic partnership in the
interests of peace and prosperity.
China and India recorded US$18.73 billion of trade last year, up
37.5 percent year-on-year, according to the Chinese Ministry of
Commerce. The figure is expected to exceed US$20 billion this
The year 2006 has been designated the year of Sino-Indian
(Xinhua News Agency August 11, 2006)