Friday, August 11, 2006

China Accuses India of Trade Barriers at Nathu La

As reported by the Press Trust of India

Beijing, August 11 (PTI) - China has accused India of erecting unilateral and restrictive trade barriers at the strategic Nathu-La border trade market.

The important trade route was opened last month with much fanfare after a 44-year hiatus.

"India has unilaterally imposed restrictions on trade through Nathu La," said Vice Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Hao Peng in Lhasa on Thursday.

Hao told a group of visiting Indian journalists hosted by the Chinese government that the border trade through Nathu-La is running at a "low level" and was "not ideal."

Hao complained that a mere 15 Chinese items have been permitted to enter the Indian market from the Chinese side.

At the same time, the Indian government has allowed the export of only 29 items from India to China.

When China opened a trade mart at Renqinggang, 16 km from the Nathu La, India opened the Changgu mart in neighbouring Sikkim.

However, while Indian business people can stay at China's Renqinggang mart, Chinese traders cannot spend the night at the Indian mart, Hao noted.

"Trade at the Renqinggang mart is currently less than $12,500 per week, far less than we had expected," Hao was quoted as saying by Xinhua news agency.

China does not impose any restrictions on cross-border trade except for illegal items, and hostels have been built to accommodate Indian traders, he said.

"I hope the Indian government will adopt a more egalitarian approach to cross-border trade with China," he said.

The border trade route was reopened as India and China have designated 2006 as the year of Sino-Indian friendship.

The Nathu La sits 4,545 meters above sea level and is wedged between Yadong County in Tibet's Xigaze Prefecture and India's Sikkim State.

Currently, more than 90 per cent of trade between China and India transited by sea, and via Tianjin -- a port city some 120 km from Beijing but nearly 4,400 kilometres from Lhasa.

With the reopening of the Nathu La, it is only 1,200 kilometres by land from Lhasa to Kolkata, a major Indian coastal city, indicating Beijing's keenness to transport Chinese goods to South Asia region.

Chinese analysts consider the reopening of the trade route to be an important development in Sino-Indian relations.

They expect the two sides to develop political trust as well as trade and economic relations.

The pass will help shape a major land trade route linking China with South Asia and reduce transportation costs, an international studies specialist with Qinghua University in Beijing, Liu Jiangyong said.

Trade through the Nathu La accounted for 80 per cent of total cross-border trade between China and India in the early 1900s.

But after their border conflict in 1962, the two countries closed their customs points at the former border markets. (PTI)