Thursday, June 28, 2007

Nathu-la trade list to expand

Siliguri, June 27: Trade through Nathu-la is set for a change. The import-export list will be expanded and the nature of goods will be different, Jairam Ramesh said today.
To facilitate this, the Centre will also upgrade the infrastructure on the Indian side of the pass, the Union minister of state for commerce and industries added.
Ramesh arrived at Bagdogra this afternoon on his way to the Dooars to reopen a couple of closed tea gardens and formally launch the Special Purpose Tea Fund in north Bengal.
“It is true that by opening Nathu-la, political relationships have improved, but not the volume of trade. We are determined to expand the scale of international trade,” he told reporters at the airport.
At present, 15 items are imported from China and 29 exported from India through the pass located at 14,400 ft. “In this age, we sell items like rice products and camel tail to China. This can hardly be called a contribution. We took up the issue at the bilateral levels and it has been decided that more items will be added to both the import and export lists,” he said.
The minister said the Chinese had better facilities for trade through the Nathu-la than India. “The trade mart at Sherathang and other ancillary units have to be developed in the next couple of years.” He, however, said there were no plans at the moment to develop the Jelep-la, an all weather pass to China near Kalimpong.
“We admit that north Bengal has not been able to reap any benefits from this trade. Even the chief minister said so. We will look into the issue,” he said.
On a different note, Ramesh said the proposed tea park, which has triggered a tug of war between Bengal urban development minister Asok Bhattacharya and Jalpaiguri’s Congress MLA Debaprasad Roy, will be established “somewhere in the area”.
“Considering the demand raised by both of them, we have asked the tea board to conduct a survey to decide on the site,” he said. “But it is definite that there will be a tea park in north Bengal, which produces 25 per cent of the total Indian tea