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No trade with China through Shipki La this year

Covid-19, border standoff in Ladakh, eastern Sikkim put annual trade between two countries on hold.

Updated: May 29, 2020 17:07 IST

By Gaurav Bisht, Hindustan Times Shimla

(HT File)

The cross-border trade between India and China through Shipki La in Himachal Pradesh will not take place this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the standoff between troops of the two countries in eastern Sikkim and Ladakh.

The annual trade between the two countries begins in June and ends in November. Traders, mostly from Lahaul-Spiti and Kinnaur districts of the state adjoining China, start registering themselves in May.

“Not a single trader has come forward to get registered so far,” Kinnaur deputy commissioner Gopal Chand said on Friday.

The Indo-China Trade Association has requested the industries department, which facilitates the trade through Shipki La, to defer the cross-border business. “We have requested the government to postpone the trade between the two countries till Covid-19 subsides and things become normal,” the president of the Indo-China Trade Association said.



TRADITIONAL TRADE

The traditional trade between India and China has seen many ups and downs. Bilateral trade through Shipki La reopened in 1993 after it was shut due to the Indo-China war in 1962. Shipki La is a mountain pass that connects Kinnaur district to the Tibetan Autonomous Region in China. It’s a border post at 18,599 feet. It is through this pass that the turbulent Sutlej enters India from China-occupied Tibet.

Till 1959 when Chinese troops entered Tibet, trade was carried out under the barter system. Indian and Tibetan traders frequented Shipki village in Chinese Tibetan Autonomous Region and Namgia village on the Indian side. But after China occupied Tibet in 1959, no trader from Tibet visited India for varied reasons.

At present, 37 trade items are exported from India that include agricultural implements, copper products, clothes, cycles, coffee, tea, barley, rice, flour, dry fruits, vegetables, edible oil, tobacco, snuff, spices, shoes , kerosene, stationary, utensils, liquor, milk-processed products, canned food, cigarettes, herbs, palm oil hardware, flowers, readymade garments, handloom products, and carpets.

Due to the countrywide lockdown to combat the coronavirus crisis, traders this time were unable to stock on items to export as they buy them from markets in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi.

TRADE SUFFERS SETBACK

Nearly 20 items are imported from China, including wool, raw silk, yak hair, China clay, borax, butter, common salt, horse, goat, sheep, readymade garments, shoes, quilts, blankets, carpets, and local herbal medicines.

Trade suffered a setback when the Indian government banned the import and export of livestock that was a major component of trade in 2012 due to lack of quarantine facility for animals.

Livestock comprised a major portion of cross-border trade. Traders imported chigu goats reared for wool and meat in China-controlled Tibet, while Chamurthi horses, known for their sturdiness, were popular among Indian traders.

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