The Nathu La pass, which will open for border trade between India and China on July 6 after a gap of 44 years, may soon become an alternative to sea route with the government studying the possibility for normal bilateral trade through the land route.
"We are examining whether more items can be allowed duty-free from Nathu La or expand it for normal bilateral trade between the two countries, which currently happens through the sea route," Christy Fernandez, Additional Secretary in the Commerce Ministry, said.
Initially, only 29 items can be exported from Sikkim and 15 imported from Tibet through the Nathu La pass, which was part of the ancient silk route.
Though China is one of India's largest trading partners, with total bilateral trade of nearly 20 billion dollars, border trade is negligible.
Fernandez, who earlier this month led the first Indian delegation to cross over from Tibet to Sikkim through Nathu La in more than four decades, said the government would try to include more items for trade through the land route after studying the impact of opening the border route.
At a later stage, the route may also be allowed to trade goods on an MFN basis.
Conducting bilateral trade on MFN basis means imports and exports would not be duty-free -- unlike in the case of border trade -- and are allowed after paying normal customs duty.
The government has finalised the list of items for trade with China from the border point between Sikkim and Tibet.