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Kolkata, Dec. 19

IT WOULD be meaningless to talk of trade through the Nathu La Pass unless infrastructure on both sides of the India-China border was upgraded adequately, according to Prof. Mahendra P. Lama, Leader of the Nathu La Trade Study Group and Chairman of the Centre for South, Central, South- East Asian & South-West-Pacific Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Addressing members of the Indian Chamber of Commerce here on Monday , Prof. Lama said requirements of road infrastructure, communications and banking facilities and container depots, among others, need to be addressed before trade through Nathu La Pass could become a reality.

The Nathu La Trade Study Group has already recommended a Rs 1,700-crore package towards this end. The trade-through-Nathu La initiative was being pushed jointly by the Government of Sikkim and the Centre.

It is expected that trade through Nathu La would take off by the second half of 2006. Infrastructure on the Chinese side was far advanced compared with the Indian side of the border.

According to him, it has been estimated that, on the higher side, the value of bilateral trade through Nathu La would be Rs 206 crore in 2007, and go up to Rs 12,203 crore by 2015.

On the lower side, the value of bilateral trade through Nathu La has been pegged at Rs 353 crore in 2010 and Rs 450 crore in 2015.

The value of Indo-China bilateral trade in 2004 was $9.8 billion, which is seven per cent of India's bilateral trade globally. For trade through Nathu La, the main transit point on the Indian side would be Gangtok within Sikkim and Siliguri outside of Sikkim.

The main items that would be traded are food items and agro-products, construction materials, energy, etc.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated December 20, 2005)
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