No trade with China via Shipki La for second year due to pandemic
For the second consecutive year, there will be no annual cross-border trade between India and China though the Shipki La in Kinnaur district of Himachal Pradesh due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Namgia, the last border village, has been declared a containment zone after 36 new cases were detected in a day recently.
The annual trade is carried out through the pass from June to November. Traders, mostly from the tribal districts of Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur in the state adjoining China, start registering themselves in May.
“So far, there has been no communication from the central government on the trade,” says Jiya Ram Abhilashi, the general manager at the department of industry in Kinnaur. “Normally, after registration for trade, credentials of traders are verified by different agencies,” he said.
The traditional trade between India and China has seen many ups and downs. Bilateral trade through Shipki La reopened in 1993 after it was shut due to the Indo-China war in 1962. Shipki La is a mountain pass that connects Kinnaur district to the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China. It’s a border post at 18,599 feet. It is through this pass that the turbulent Sutlej enters India from China-occupied Tibet.
Need more facilities to continue trade
“Due to the Covid-19 cases, trade is not feasible at present, but if the pandemic subsides in future, we will urge the government to resume the trade. The last two years have been tough,” says Hishey Negi, the president of the Kinnaur-based Indo-China Trade Association.
The traders have been seeking more facilities along the border, including a trade centre at Chupan. The government identified land for its construction, but work is yet to start. “The government needs to add more facilities otherwise this trade will die a gradual death. It will not enthuse the younger generation,” says Jiya Lal Negi, a resident of another border village, Chitkul.
29 items imported from China
Twenty-nine items are imported from China, including wool, raw silk, yak hair, China clay, borax, butter, common salt, horse, goat, sheep, readymade garments, shoes, quilts, blankets, carpets, and local herbal medicines.
Trade suffered a setback when the Indian government banned the import and export of livestock that was a major component of trade in 2012 due to lack of quarantine facility for animals.
Livestock comprised a major portion of cross-border trade. Traders imported chigu goats reared for wool and meat in China-controlled Tibet, while Chamurthi horses, known for their sturdiness, were popular among Indian traders.
Trade trend before pandemic
2014: ₹7.32 crore
2015: ₹9.72 crore
2016: ₹8.59 crore
2017: ₹59.21 lakh
2018: ₹2.52 crore
2019: ₹3.05 crore