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Ministers plan trade trail recce to Sikkim

Calcutta, Oct. 16: Ministers Nirupam Sen and Asok Bhattacharya will visit Sikkim next month to explore possibilities of infrastructure development to facilitate trade with Tibet and China through Nathu-la.

The duo is scheduled to meet Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling.

Commerce and industries minister Sen, his department’s secretary Sabyasachi Sen and urban development minister Bhattacharya will be in Sikkim to chalk out ways to develop the region. “The date of the visit has tentatively been fixed for November 1,” Nirupam Sen said at Writers’ Buildings today.

Apart from roads and other modes of communication in Bengal and Sikkim, warehousing facilities have to be developed to expand trade possibilities with China. Both states will benefit from the opening of the route. Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had written to Sikkim chief minister Pawan Chamling calling for “effective cooperation” between the states.

“If we can position our states well, the people will benefit immensely from the increased movement of trade and the resources that will follow through the pass. However, in order to fully utilise this opportunity, we have to take concrete steps for development of infrastructure from Chhangu through Gangtok to Siliguri,” Bhattacharjee wrote.

For development, Siliguri needs to position itself as a transhipment hub for trade through the pass. The subdivision also needs proper customs, warehousing, storing, and freight handling infrastructure. Road connectivity to Siliguri must also be considerably increased.

The north-south corridor connecting Haldia to Siliguri and the linking of NH-34 to the east-west corridor (Silchar to Porbandar) under the National Highway Development Project has to be completed. Bagdogra airport has to be upgraded and granted international status.

Before the ministers’ visit, however, top officers from various embassies in Delhi visited the border outpost yesterday. The trip of the team of 29, including Colonel Huang Quin of the Chinese embassy, was kept under wraps. Sources said the defence advisers were here to “study” the state. The Sikkim government was not intimated about the visit and all arrangements were made by the Indian Army personnel posted here.

The other defence attachés visiting the state included Major-General V.. Chernov of the Russian Embassy, Brigadier Ido Rees from the British High Commission, Colonel John Hill of the US Embassy and Colonel P.J. Power of the Australian High Commission. The team left for Delhi today

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