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Indians want upgrade on trade with China on Silk Route

Nathu La (Sikkim), Nov 16 (IANS) Indian traders have urged the government to review the list of items tradable with China to boost business through the fabled Silk Route.

‘The present list of import-export should be amended and widened to meet the need of the present age. The list of goods notified for transaction is a list prepared decades ago and has to be upgraded if we are to increase the volume of trade between the two nations,’ T. Bhutia, a trader in the northeastern state of Sikkim, told IANS.

India and China in 2006 reopened trade across the 15,000-ft Nathu La Pass, 52 km east of Sikkim’s capital Gangtok, as part of a broader rapprochement. The move marked the first direct trade link between the nuclear-armed neighbours since a bitter border war in 1962.

The two-way trade was sluggish with Indian traders doing business worth about Rs.10.35 million ($230,000) in 2009, while traders from the Tibet Autonomous Region did business worth Rs.300,000 ($6,000).

Under the agreement, trade takes place four days a week – Monday to Thursday – beginning in May each year and lasting until Nov 30 when snow makes the area impassable.

‘We are yet to compile figures relating to the volume of trade between the two countries this year, but rough estimates indicate the trading has not shown much improvement compared to 2009,’ a senior Sikkim trade and industry official said requesting anonymity.

Although the trade was slow this year, about 1,000 Chinese traders crossed the border separated by a rusty barbed wire marker to the bazaar of Sherathang, five kilometres below the pass on the Indian side.

Trade bodies and local businesspeople in Sikkim want New Delhi to include iron and steel, cement, paints, hardware materials, readymade garments, cosmetics, perfumes, processed food, medicines, medicinal herbs, flowers, fruits and a host of other things in the list of exportable items.

Under the deal to open the pass, 15 items were approved for import from China such as silk and yak pelts and horses, while India could export 29 items from textiles to tea, rice, vegetables and herbs.

‘The inclusion of new exportable items would make trade points more vibrant and robust and would greatly increase the volume of business from next year,’ said S.K. Sarda of the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce.

The Sikkim government is taking up the matter with New Delhi to push up hopes for booming trade across the roof of the world.

‘The government of India is seriously reviewing the request,’ the Sikkim government official said.

‘We have given a list of about 100 items to New Delhi for inclusion in the list of exportable items.’

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