The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nathu-la to open a month early
New Trade season

Starts: May 1
Ends: November 30

Started on: July 6
Ended on: September 30

Gangtok, April 29: Winter break over, trade through Nathu-la will restart on Tuesday, a month earlier than the date decided upon last year.

Not only that, the Union commerce ministry has informed the Sikkim government that the duration of trade with China through the 14,400 ft border outpost has been extended by three months.

Last year, after the pass was opened amid fanfare, it was decided that the border outpost would remain open from June 1 till September 30.

But after a review meeting on March 16 at Udyog Bhavan in New Delhi, chaired by the special secretary Christie Fernandes, the Centre instructed the state to make the border outpost available for trade from May 1 to November 30.

The director of state commerce and industries department S.P. Subba has confirmed the meeting and both the decisions.

The central notice, which was sent to the state government on April 26, was signed by the under secretary of the ministry, D. K. Verma, and stated that the decision was taken in concurrence with the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

The ministry of external affairs has confirmed that the Chinese side has communicated its acceptance of the proposed extension of the trading season, the letter said. All field organisations, including security agencies, have been suitably informed, the Union ministry said.

“Though the decision was conveyed at a short notice, the Sikkim government has informed everyone involved in the border trade that the pass will reopen on May 1,” said Subba.

The opening of trade through Nathu-la for the second year will be a low-key affair with no programmes likely to be organised.

The March 16 meeting, however, failed to take decisions on other “important” issues, which were discussed. The proposal to raise the amount of business transaction from the present Rs 25,000 to Rs 1 lakh per day per trader was mulled. It had been a state government proposal and had been placed before the Union ministry for approval.

The other important decisions pending with the Centre are the inclusion of additional items in the list of goods for import and export and the extension of trading time during the day.

“These are under process and we can expect something later this year,” Subba told The Telegraph.

In February, the New Delhi-based Indian Institute of Foreign Trade was assigned the task of studying the reopening of the Nathu-la trade route and preparing a comprehensive report on export development in Sikkim.

The district collectorate (East) here has started issuing forms for travel passes of traders since yesterday. The ones that were given last year have already expired as they had validity for six months only.

District collector (East) Vishal Chauhan, the authority on issuing passes, said the intelligence bureau have been requested to complete the verifications of the applicants at the earliest so that the passes could be distributed by Tuesday.

Chauhan is also the chairman of Sherathang Trade Development Agency (set up 15 days ago) and said the organisation will take all necessary action for the smooth conduct of trade in the coming years.

The 15-member agency will also look after infrastructure development at the trade mart at Sherathang, 7 km before Nathu-la.

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