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Trade now, tourism later
- Chamling says Nathu-la route to be used for commercial purposes for now

Gangtok, July 5: Chief minister Pawan Chamling today said Nathu-la would reopen tomorrow primarily for trade. Tourism will have to take the back seat for some time.

'Tourism plans are in the pipeline and we have already briefed the central government about the potential and the requirements. Now it is for them to talk it out with our Chinese counterparts,' he said.

Chamling was speaking to a group of national and international reporters at Samman Bhavan on the eve of the reopening.

Experts believe that reopening of the route would draw pilgrims from across the globe ' both Buddhists and Hindus ' to Nathu-la. While for the former the trade route will easily be the shortest path to Kailash and Mansarovar, the latter are looking forward to reaching Lhasa a lot faster.

The existing route to the Tibetan capital through Kathmandu is 1,200 km. The Nathu-la trade route is expected to bring this distance down to less than 600 km. The reopening of the mountain pass will also enable Tibetans domiciled here to go back and meet their friends and relatives.

The chief minister said his state would try to fully exploit the economic possibilities of the venture while keeping the drawbacks under control.

'Before 1962, this was the most important and historical trade route to central Asia. With this route reopening tomorrow, we are expecting its glorious past to be repeated,' Chamling said.

The chief minister, who has been credited for persistently demanding the reopening of the trade route, minced no words in mentioning that this was one of the most important achievements of the ruling Sikkim Democratic Front government.

The official programme for the reopening will begin at 9 am and the chief minister, along with senior officials from the Centre, will be present.

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