NATHULA BORDER TRADE - AN OVERVIEW
Many people read
Future Shock by Alfred Toffler, marketed in India
in the late 1970’s, with considerable interest. The driving theme
of the book is that the changes that have taken place all over
the world in the last few decades have far exceeded the account
of the previous 200 years. The changes could be seen at the macro
level in science, technology, economy, international relations,
social order and the people’s lifestyle. Not that the perceptible
changes were good for all people. But the fact that change is
a way of the world was realized by many to readjust their outlook
of life, even if some of the changes were shocking.
are on. Thus, a joint declaration signed between the Governments
of India and China in Beijing on June 23, 2003 and also a specific
Memorandum of Understanding (M.O.U.) on resumption of Sikkim –
Tibet trade on the historic ‘Silk Route’ across Nathula in East
Sikkim which was abandoned after India-China relations deteriorated
in 1962. The outcome of this development will be seen in due course
first in the geopolitics of a new equation among the nations of
the world and, secondly, in the economic, social and, maybe, also
in the political realities in Sikkim, the 22nd State of India
since its merger in 1975.
joint declaration is the first of its kind in the history of Sino-Indian
relations since the end of World War II (1945) and the formation
of the Republic of India (1947), followed by the birth of the
People’s Republic of China (1949). India and China have always
been known as the two Asian majors and the relations between them
are considered crucial as much for Asia as for the world. In the
present scenario, marked by stress on economic reform, market-driven
economy and global trade, the role of India and China has assumed
an added significance on several counts. The two countries account
for two-third of theworld’s population. Individually they are
large markets while jointly they are the largest in the world.
Both the countries are recognized for their growing economy. They
complement each other, especially in information technology and
computer industry sectors.
China is known
to be driven by its ambition to become an economic superpower
in the world. Accordingly, an India-China all-weather relation
of understanding, friendship and cooperation – all in their economic
interest – can be a sound policy for both the countries which
have to individually provide for their large populations of over
a billion each. Like the U.S., business is business for China.
The reality in this regard is to be seen in how the country has
progressed and become a major economy of the world mostly by a
pragmatic utilization of its huge human resource along the path
shown by Mao Zedong.
India and China
share a common perspective of a multipolar world, strengthening
of the U.N. and right direction for globalization and, more particularly,
about an uninhibited people-centric economic development of the
two most populous countries of the world. It is in this perspective
that one has to see the significance of resumption of border trade
between Sikkim and Tibet, even if it would be more symbolic and
not much in volume or in value.
and people of Sikkim have received the border trade agreement
with mixed feelings. The Chief Minister, Shri Pawan Kumar Chamling,
has said that his government has been demanding resumption of
Sikkim-Tibet trade along the historic ‘Silk Route’ ever since
the Sikkim Democratic Front, of which he is the president, came
in power in 1994. Accordingly, he sees the agreement as a fulfillment
of a longstanding demand of his party and its government. However,
Shri Chamling has formed a high-power committee for a detailed
study of the enabling facilities, infrastructure, logistics and
security that would be needed for starting the trade with a border
market to be set up at Changu Lake.
trade with Tibet, howsoever symbolic, will definitely open up
many opportunities for Sikkim. It is up to the people of Sikkim
to avail the opportunities for their economic gains, said Shri
Chamling. An alternative road to link Changu with Ranka and Ranipool
in East Sikkim is also being considered to avert the disruption
of traffic in Gangtok once the trade begins. The Sikkim government
has decided to request the Centre to include the State Chief Secretary,
in the Joint Action Committee, which will be formed to finalize
the details of the border trade. The Chief Minister has also discussed
security arrangements for the border trade with his top officials,
including the Chief Secretary and the Director- General of Police.
As to the people’s
reaction to the border trade arrangement, some leading businessman
in Gangtok have spoken with an optimistic note. The common man
in Changu-Nathula area may be expecting opportunities of small
trade that normally go with any big trade on a long-term basis.
However, in view of the known limitations of hill roads in this
Himalayan State, especially during the heavy monsoon from May
to September, the prospect of any sizeable trade involving heavy
transport appears to be doubtful to many. People are yet to be
told what would be the trade items from the two sides of the India-China
border at Nathula.
from Ashok Chatterjee, Editor, Gangtok Times, Gangtok