Trade through Nathu La under cloud after serious Sikkim incident, says sitting MP
The last time there was tension was in 1960s, Sikkim MP PD Rai said, adding that at the time there was “lot of exchange of gunfire”.india Updated: Jul 01, 2017 02:54 IST
The unusually aggressive standoff between Indian and Chinese troops at Nathu La in Sikkim has shattered the decades-long peace in the region and cast a shadow over trade between the two countries through the strategic mountain pass, a top political leader from the state has said.
“This is a new phenomenon and definitely a very serious incident,” PD Rai, the MP from Sikkim’s lone Lok Sabha constituency, said about the incident involving military personnel from the two sides.
Rai said traders in the area are worried about the fallout from the “serious” standoff, the likes of which hasn’t happened at Nathu La since the 1960s.
Nathu La, at an altitude of 4,545 metres, is located between Tibet Autonomous Region’s Yadong County in Xigaze prefecture and Sikkim.
“For a long time, for decades, there was no serious issue at the border (in Sikkim). We have had many decades of peace. (There was) no such great build-up (of troops) at the border; never seen anything major,” Rai told HT over phone.
The last time there was tension was in the 1960s, Rai said, adding that at the time there was “lot of exchange of gunfire”.
“Government of India has to pay a lot of interest to the area and ensure there is no trouble,” he said.
Rai’s statement came against the backdrop of Indian Army chief Gen Bipin Rawat’s visit to Sikkim on Thursday.
Rai added that suspending the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra via Nathu La was “quite a move by the Chinese”.
“The stopping of the pilgrimage was a very strong move by the Chinese government,” he said. The pilgrimage through the new route had been conducted smoothly since it was inaugurated in 2015.
“It was running smoothly. We were planning huge things around it. Market it better, attract more tourists. Suddenly, brakes have been applied on the plans,” Rai added.
Local traders are most worried. Trade through Nathu La was resumed on July 6, 2006 and it is an important source of income for local residents.
In 2014, the volume of trade through the pass, closed between October and May because of the extreme weather, was around ₹28 crore. But clearly that’s not close to the potential.
Currently, India allows the export of 29 items and the import of 15 items from China
“It (trade) seems very difficult under the circumstances. There are definitely dark clouds looming over (trade),” Rai said.