Trade activities through the Nathu La pass have been dampened even after more than a month of its reopening of bilateral trade between India and China, as Sikkimese traders did not possess the Import-Export Code (IEC).
The Nathu La Pass, a part of the ancient silk route, was reopened on July 6 this year, 44 years after it was closed, in the wake of the Sino-Indian conflict in 1962.
Business was stalled for a fortnight as custom officials did not allow traders to take their goods to the other side of the border without an IEC, issued against a Permanent Account Number card by the Income Tax Department, mandatory for conducting border trade. However, no Sikkimese traders possess the IEC as the Direct Income Tax law has not been provided by the state.
Trade resumed only after the Union government exempted these traders from possessing the IEC, to a ceiling of Rs 25,000 per trader. But soon new problems surfaced and limited the volume of trade.
Sikkim Chamber of Commerce (SCC) President S K Sarda said, on an average four businessmen had gone for regular trading and a business transaction of around Rs three lakh had been made so far. The businessmen were mainly trading rice, atta, maida and vanaspati.
Recently the Vice-Chairman of Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) of China had told a group of visiting journalists that the volume of trade through the Nathu La pass was far below expectation and blamed the Indian government for it.
A study group commissioned by the Sikkim government prior to the reopening of the route, estimated the trade flow through the pass to touch Rs 206 cr by 2007, Rs 2266 cr by 2010 and Rs 2203 cr by 2015 on the higher side and Rs 353 cr in 2010, Rs 450 cr in 2015 and Rs 574 cr in 2020 on the lower side.