The Indo-China trade through Nathu La in Sikkim resumed on Monday as the much-hyped international trade entered its 11th year.
Located at an altitude of 14,440 ft, the trade route popularly known as the old silk route resumed on July 6 2006, 44 years after it was closed since the Indo-China war in 1962.
The route remains closed from December 1 to be reopened next year in May. From December to April the region becomes extremely cold and receives heavy snowfall which makes it impossible to access. The trading days are from Monday to Thursday and the trade will continue till November 30.
The weather is so harsh here that vehicles can move only till 3 pm and the point is closed for the day as the clock strikes 3. On Monday the route was declared open braving inclement weather and heavy showers.
The roads are motorable and trucks carry goods across the pass into Tibet.
The opening ceremony was attended by director S K Pradhan, joint secretary Pempo T Pulger of Sikkim government’s commerce & industries department and officers of central and state agencies involved in the Nathu La Trade Border.
In 2016, India exported goods worth Rs 63.38 crore and imported goods valued at Rs 19.30 crore through Nathu La.
According to the agreement, India imports 20 items such as herbal medicine, garments, shoes, quilt, blankets, carpets, goat and sheep skin, yak tail, yak hair. India exports 36 items such as spices, tea, coffee, cycles, rice, flour, handicrafts and agriculture implements.
An agreement to reopen the old silk route was reached in June 2003 during the China visit of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Located 55 km from Gangtok, Nathu La has fast emerged as a must-visit spot for tourists who often risk inclement weather to reach it and get a glimpse of the Chinese army at the border. Tourists also do quick shopping at the shops operated by the army.
A press release issued by the Government of Sikkim said “The Indo-China border trade through Nathu La resumed on Monday for the year 2017.”
Incidentally, roads on the Tiber side are wider and offer a smoother ride than on the Indian side.