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Asia, India, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Re-opening of the Nathu La to Trade

Re-opening of the Nathu La to trade. During the summer China and India re-opened a historic trade route that had been closed for almost half a century. The Nathu La, at over 4,000m on the border of Sikkim and Tibet, was part of an old Silk Route. At present it is only open to traders from Sikkim and Tibet, with a special pass being issued. Two markets have been created on each side of the border, and, although goods can continue farther into both countries, the traders themselves cannot continue to Lhasa or Gangtok.

Things, however, are likely to change. There is talk of tourists being able to drive across the Nathu La to Lhasa. The Chinese are extending the Lhasa train to Xigaze, nearer to Sikkim, and that too will change things. Motorbike enthusiasts are planning to drive on this road through Indian government patronage.

The opening of the Nathu La has implications for mountaineers, as there is also talk of allowing climbing on peaks that lie on both sides of the Chumbi Valley, with permission from Bhutan in the east and India (Sikkim) in the west. Relations between China and India are improving regarding borders, and restrictions on trekking and climbing in Arunachal Pradesh are likely to ease. Only local rules and steep fees may cause problems.

Harish Kapadia, Honorary Editor, The Himalayan Journal