The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nathu-la hope for growth

Calcutta, July 2: Bengal expects the reopening of Sino-Indian border trade through Nathu-la in Sikkim, the agreement for which was signed last week, to boost industrial growth.

Sources in Writers’ Buildings said the state government has sought a detailed paper on business prospects from the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), which was part of the Indian delegation led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China.

CII eastern region chairman Sanjay Budhia said the chamber is preparing a study paper on the business potential likely to emerge once trade through Nathu-la begins. “We will present the paper to the state government in the next couple of days. We also plan to meet chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee to push for a combined effort to tap the business potential,” Budhia said.

CII national committee member Sumit Majumdar, who was a member of the Indian delegation, said big opportunities are coming Bengal’s way and Calcutta could become the gateway for future Sino-Indian trade.

“There are several sectors, like information technology, tourism and hospitality, and construction, that can benefit substantially from the recent agreement. The potential for Indo-Chinese joint ventures cannot be ruled out in the long term,” he added.

The biggest beneficiary, it is assumed, will be the Calcutta port, which is India’s nearest port to China. A majority of Indian imports and exports could be routed through the Calcutta and Haldia docks.

It is estimated that the Sino-Indian trade volume could double from $4 billion to more than $8 billion over the next three years because of the border trade agreement.

“After attending several meetings, my personal feeling is that huge business opportunities may come up even in the short term,” Majumdar said.

The hotel industry in Calcutta, reeling under an occupancy crisis, is upbeat. “We are hopeful that the hotel industry is going to have a big time once the real business starts. There will be fresh traffic generated due to business delegations as well as tourists,” said Sameer Khanna, general manager, Taj Bengal.

Anticipating business growth, the premier chambers are rushing to set up outposts in Chinese cities. CII last week opened a permanent outpost in Sanghai while the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) already has an office in Beijing.

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