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Nathu-la to reopen on July 6

New Delhi, June 19: The Silk Route will be revived on July 6 when India and China will start trading goods through the Nathu-la pass in Sikkim after a gap of 44 years.

Wrapping up a meeting in Lhasa, Indian and Chinese officials announced the much-awaited decision to open the borders to re-establish a direct trade link.

The two sides have decided to allow trade of 28 items that have been included in the border trade agreements of 1991, 1992 and 2003. The basket includes blankets, agro-chemical products, dry fruits, beverages, canned food and farm implements.

The border trade will immediately benefit the local economies of Tibet and Sikkim.

The opening-up also puts a seal on Beijing's acceptance of Sikkim as a part of India, a process that started during the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China in 2003.

The two sides have been engaged in discussions for the last three years to open the border trade post. An inter-ministerial team led by the additional secretary (commerce), Christy Fernandez, thrashed out the procedural details in Lhasa.

Officials said Nathu-la had accounted for 80 per cent of the border trade between China and India at the start of the previous century. The flourishing trade route was closed after the 1962 war.

Trade between the two sides since then has taken place through the sea route.

Nathu-la, 4,545 m above sea level, is 460 km from Lhasa and 550 km from Calcutta.

A market has been constructed at Dongginggang in Yadong near the pass to cater to the traders.

'The resumption of (Sino-Indian) border trade is a great historic event, not only for enlarging trade, but also for greater relations between the two great countries,' PTI quoted Fernandez as saying in Lhasa.

'The reopening of border trade will help end economic isolation in this area and play a key role in boosting market economy there,' said the vice-chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Hao Peng, who also led the Chinese delegation.

'It will also boost the transportation, construction and service industries, paving the way for a major trade route that connects China and South Asia,' he said.

The Indian delegation also met the chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Giangba Puncog, who, according to the PTI, expressed China's keen interest in reopening the mountainous border trade point.

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