China, India Reopen Historic Trade Route
China and India restarted border trade Thursday through Tibet’s Nathu La Pass, a historic trading route that has been closed for 44 years.
China and India restarted border trade Thursday through Tibet’s Nathu La Pass, a historic trading route that has been closed for 44 years. A grand inaugural ceremony was held at the Sino-Indian border late Thursday morning to mark the reopening of the pass, a major trading point between the two countries before it was closed in 1962 following a border conflict. The Nathu La Pass, sitting 4,545 metres above sea level, is wedged between Yadong County of Tibet’s Xigaze Prefecture and India’s Sikkim state.
Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling and the chairman of Tibet’s regional government, Qiangba Puncog, were present at the ceremony. “This is a historical day for both countries. We are looking forward to developing the trade and beginning tourism,” Chamling said.
After the ceremony, people from the two countries walked through the pass cheerfully, while Tibetan Chinese presented hadas (a white silk scarf symbolizing respect and blessing as a greeting gift) to the Indians. Gone is the barbed wire that separated the world’s most populous nations for the past 44 years; in its place is a 10-meter wide stone-walled passageway.
Following the inaugural ceremony, the two countries opened two border trade markets – the Renqinggang market in Tibet and Changgu mart in India. Chinese and Indian officials agreed last month to reopen border trade through Nathu La Pass, one of the main arteries of the Silk Road that historically linked China via central Asia to Europe.
“The reopening of border trade will help end economic isolation in this area and play a key role in boosting market economy there,” said Hao Peng, vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region. The move is also conducive to improving relations between the two countries, said Christy Fernandez, additional secretary of the Indian Department of Commerce.
With the reopening of the historic trade route and Saturday’s launch of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway, experts say the two countries will be able to revive the ancient Silk Road by shipping goods from China’s inland areas to India and other parts of South Asia via Tibet.