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Indo-China standoff casts a shadow on traders in Kinnaur

The inordinate delay in giving a green signal to the annual trade that usually starts in July has left the local traders worried.

india Updated: Jul 18, 2017 17:28 IST
Gaurav Bisht
Gaurav Bisht
Hindutsan Times, Shimla
Indo-China standoff,Kinnaur,shadow on traders
The trade between the two countries opened in 1994 after India and China signed a bilateral protocol. The trade is carried through the 18,599-foot-high Shipkila pass connecting India and China. (HT Photo)

India’s standoff with China at Doklam is casting a shadow on the cross-border trade through the Shipkila pass in the tribal Kinnaur district.

The inordinate delay in giving a green signal to the annual trade that usually starts in July has left the local traders worried. The trade usually commences in the first week of July. “But this year, the traders have not been given the security clearances so far,” complained Shar Chander Negi, general manager of General Industries Corporation, Kinnaur.

This year, a total of 82 traders, most of them local villagers, had applied for trade passes. “Trade at the Shipkila officially starts in mid July but it picks up pace in August after the locals are free from apple harvest, but so far the government has not issued any security passes to us,” says Hishey Negi, president of Kinnaur Indo-China Trade Association.

Traders are sent to security agencies through the office of the tehsildar at Pooh in Kinnaur. Till 2012, the trade passes were issued by the Himachal police’s Crime Investigation Department but now it is the central agencies that give clearance to the traders .

The trade between the two countries opened in 1994 after India and China signed a bilateral protocol. The trade is carried through the 18,599-foot-high Shipkila pass connecting India and China. Himachal’s Kinnaur and Lahual Spiti districts share 280 kms of border with China.

Indians trade in items such as agricultural implements, blankets, copper products, clothes, textiles, cycles, coffee, tea, barley, rice, flour, dry fruit, dry and fresh vegetables, vegetable oil, jaggery and tobacco. They return with items like jackets. Earlier, they also used to bring livestock from China, but it was banned in 1992 due to lack of quarantine facilities. The traders have been repeatedly urging the Centre to create more facilities at the Namgya trading point in India.

Traditionally, trade with Tibet was carried out through barter system. But in 2013, the central government added more items to the trading list, which resulted in a quantum leap in trade, which touched 7.32 crore. The highest trade was recorded in 2105 when the total revenue exceeded 9.38 crore. The demonetisation drive by the Modi Government last year, however, had hit the cross-border trade adversely.

What is peculiar about this trade that only Indian traders visit Shipki village in China. After trade was resumed in 1994, no Chinese trader has visited the Namgya village. Tibetan writer and freedom activist Tenzin Tsudenue says it could be because Chinese who come to India are spied upon when they return. Pooh tehsildhar Rajiv Verma says, “So far, we have not understood the reasons for the Chinese not visiting India.”

Year Number of traders

2012 -- 54

2013 -- 74

2014 -- 115

2015 -- 98

2016 -- 96

First Published: Jul 18, 2017 16:52 IST