Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Tibet to Win Trade as Pass to India Repoens

Note: the following news article reflects decidedly Chinese spin, published in the govt.-controlled "China Daily" newspaper. It is curious they have chosen July 6 -- the Dalai Lama's birthday and a day of great celebration throughout Tibetan settlements -- as the day to officially reopen the pass, no doubt to great (and conflicting) fanfare. -- mw


China Daily; 2006-06-20 -- China and India have agreed to reopen border trade at the Nathula Pass in the Himalayas on July 6 for the first time in 44 years.

The accord is expected to give a major boost to trade between the two countries, officials said yesterday following a final agreement reached by the two countries on Sunday in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

The pass accounted for 80 percent of the total border trade between China and India in the early 1900s. It was closed in 1962 because of border conflicts.

"The reopening of border trade will help end economic isolation in this area and play a key role in boosting the market economy there," said Hao Peng, vice chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

"It will also boost the transport, construction and service industries, paving the way for a major trade route that connects China and south Asia."

The Nathula Pass is 4,545 meters above sea level on the border between Tibet's Xigaze and India's state of Sikkim.

The resumption of border trade reflects the improvement in ties between China and India, said Professor Liu Jiangyong of the Institute of International Studies at Beijing-based Qinghua University. He noted that China and India worked out a border accord last year.

This year has been set aside as the year of Sino-Indian friendship. China and India signed a memorandum of understanding on the resumption of border trade at the Nathula Pass in 2004.

China's State Council approved a plan for the construction of border trade markets in Xigaze's Yadong County the following year.

Trade between China and India amounted to US $18.7 billion in 2005, up 37.5 percent from the previous year, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce. (!!- mw)

The volume is expected to exceed US$20 billion this year.

China and India trade now mostly by sea.

Tibet imports from and exports to India via Tianjin, a port city in China's north that is thousands of kilometers away. Tibet is expected to benefit greatly from the resumption of border trade at the pass.

"If only 10 percent of Sino-Indian trade goes through the pass it means at least more than US$1 billion," Hao said.