Thursday, July 05, 2007

First anniversary of fabled Silk Road

GANGTOK: India is holding a commemorative function on Thursday in the north-eastern state of Sikkim to mark the first anniversary of the historic re-opening of the fabled Silk Road for border trade with China. On July 6 last year, the two Asian giants re-opened trade across the 15,000-feet (4,545-metre) 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 symbolic function to mark the successful completion of a year of border trade through Nathu La is being held in Gangtok involving traders and representatives from the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce, besides the Confederation of Industries of Sikkim," said, Saman Prasad Subba, director of industry and commerce in Sikkim. Under an agreement reached between the two countries trade takes place four days a week - Monday to Thursday - beginning May 1 each year and lasting until November 30 when snow makes the area impassable. "In the first two months of trading this year, Indians did business worth Rs.6,37,000, while Chinese traders were able to sell goods worth just Rs.32,900," Subba said. The sluggish border trade between the two countries is due to restrictions in tradable items - India can import 15 items from China including silk, yak pelts and horses, and export 29 items, including textiles, tea, rice, vegetables and herbs. "There is a need for broadening the list of both importable and exportable items for boosting trade. The Chinese traders have been selling just yak pelts and it is imperative that the two countries decide to review the present export-import list," said SK Sarda, president of the Sikkim Chamber of Commerce.