In­dia hardly trades with China, Why that’s not chang­ing

Fiji Sun - - World News -

Deep in the Hi­malayas some three miles above sea level, In­dian se­cu­rity forces and Chi­nese sol­diers gaze at each other through a barbed-wire fence while trucks car­ry­ing goods from both sides pass through a large iron gate that marks the bor­der. The Nathula Pass, once part of the an­cient Silk Road and later sealed af­ter a 1962 war, was re­opened in 2006 as a sym­bol of im­proved re­la­tions be­tween Asian neigh­bors that ac­count for more than a third of the world’s pop­u­la­tion. A decade later, how­ever, it per­haps bet­ter re­flects a trust deficit: the pass even does not ac­count for one per­cent of over­all bi­lat­eral com­merce.

“Busi­ness is very slow here,” said Riku Doma, 42, a shop­keeper at a mar­ket close to Nathula who sells jack­ets, blan­kets and shoes in In­dia. “I’m just man­ag­ing to sur­vive.”

Large sec­tions of the road link­ing In­dia’s state of Sikkim with Ti­bet are nar­row and lit­tered with pot­holes. The area has no ware­houses to store goods nor any ho­tels. Only 56 low-end items can be traded, like tea, bi­cy­cles and canned food. And for about half the year, heavy snow­fall forces au­thor­i­ties to close the bor­der al­to­gether. The con­nec­tiv­ity prob­lems in the Hi­malayas, long a nat­u­ral land bar­rier be­tween In­dia and China, ex­tend to sea routes that ac­count for the bulk of trade be­tween the na­tions. A lack of qual­ity roads around ports, in­suf­fi­cient ware­houses, high tar­iffs and visa re­stric­tions have con­trib­uted to a lop­sided and lack­lus­ter trade re­la­tion­ship.

Photo: NDTV

Gen­eral view of the Indo-China Sherathang Trade Mart near the Nathula Pass, East Sikkim.

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