Chinese Embassy Publishes Tibet Advertorial in Indian Media
2019/06/04

On June 4th, Chinese Embassy in India published an advertorial entitled Nathula: A Gateway of Friendship Where Hearts Meet in mainstream Indian media the Indian Express and the Financial Express, introducing the current situation and history of China-India border trade through Nathula and the efforts made by the Chinese government to help official Indian pilgrims through Nathula pass. With colorful pictures and concrete information, the Advertorial highlights that Nathula, influenced by the two warm currents of border trade and pilgrimage, has gradually melted into a heart-to-heart gateway of friendship between the two peoples to enhance mutual trust, and become a symbol of exchanges and mutual learning between China and India.The Full Text is as follows:

 

Nathula: A Gateway of Friendship Where Hearts Meet

 

Sunshine at Nathula

Nathula is located at the junction of Yadong County, Shigatse City of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), China and Sikkim of India. In Tibetan language, Nathula means a place where the “snow is deepest and the wind strongest”. It is about 4300 meters (around 14,100 feet) above sea level and is the highest trade route by road in the world. Nathula was once the main pass of the southern line of the ancient Silk Road and the ancient Tea Horse Road, connecting the main trade markets of China and India.

Nathula has a special significance in the history of China-India exchanges. Historically, the ancient Tea Horse Road, spanning the Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau and Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and crossing many high mountains and long rivers, heads south to India and other South Asian countries via Tibet. Nathula Pass is one of the important passages. Taking advantage of geographical proximity, Yadong County on the Chinese side attracted merchants from various countries, and becomes an important border trade town in the exchanges of China’s Tibet with the outside world. In 1958, the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru crossed Nathula to Bhutan via Yadong, and also passed through Yadong when he returned.

Geographically, the Nathula Pass is 54 kilometers away from Gangtok of Sikkim, 52 kilometers from Yadong of Tibet, only over 400 kilometers from Lhasa to the north, and over 700 kilometers from Kolkata to the south. In 1888, after the British invasion of Tibet, Yadong was forcibly turned into a commercial port, and then became the largest commercial port between China and India. At that time, it took less time to travel from Tibet through Nathula to India and then to Shanghai by ship from Kolkata, than from the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau to Sichuan and then to Shanghai via the Yangtze River. Nathula emerged as an important hub for Asian trade. In the early 20th century, the annual transaction volume reached the highest of over 100 million Tibetan silver dollars, accounting for more than 80% of the total border trade between China and India at that time.

At present, Nathula is the most convenient land route connecting China and India, which is of great significance to realize China-India connectivity. Every year, many official Indian pilgrims travel to Yadong via Nathula, and continue their yatras to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet. Nathula, the cold military stronghold in the high mountains, influenced by the two warm currents of border trade and pilgrimage, has gradually melted into a heart-to-heart gateway of friendship between the two peoples to enhance mutual trust, and become a symbol of exchanges and mutual learning between China and India.

A New Journey of Border Trade

Border trade in Yadong has a long history. After India’s independence in 1947, Yadong became the first trading port between China and India. In 1954, China and India signed the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India, which made proper arrangements for border trade, pilgrimage, and personnel exchanges in the border areas between the two countries. By 1957, no less than 700 people travelled to and from the Nathula Pass, and over 1,000 mules were used to transport goods every day. Before the closure of the Nathula Pass in 1962, trade markets on both sides of the Nathula Pass stayed open for 12 months a year, except for unexpected avalanche or in rainy season. It was the largest border trading port in Tibet.

In 2003, during the visit of the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China, the two governments signed a memorandum on expanding border trade, designating Changgu of Sikkim state and Renqinggang of the TAR as the venues for border trade markets. In 2006, the two sides reopened the Nathula Pass, resuming China-India border trade through Nathula after 44 years. Thereafter, the total border trade had reached over 180 million RMB (approximately Rs 1.8 billion) in 10 years, more than 100 times the amount in 2006. At present, border trade through Nathula with China is in India’s favour, with its export volumes to China 10 times of its import.

Mr. Luo Zhaohui, the Chinese ambassador to India, was involved in promoting the reopening of border trade through Nathula and pilgrimage. In 2005, he visited the Chinese side of the Nathula Pass from Yadong of Tibet. From May 8th to 11th 2019, Ambassador Luo Zhaohui visited Sikkim of India and went from Gangtok by road to the Chinese side of the border, where he reviewed the border trade cooperation at Nathula in Yadong County. Since 2006, the Chinese side has been investing large amount of money in building the trade and immigration facilities at Nathula Pass. The border trade market at Renqingang, with an area of 2.84 acres, costs over 65 million RMB (approximately Rs 650 million) and has 194 stores. It has also built customs building, reception center for Indian pilgrims and Nathula friendship restaurant, which can be comparable to a 5-star hotel.

Now, the local governments of Sikkim and TAR share high enthusiasm for cooperation, and look forward to further improving and promoting border trade cooperation through Nathula. The two sides could discuss the possibility of upgrading Nathula to a land port, and establishing a cross-border economic cooperation zone. More efforts need to be made in removing the item list of border trade, extending transaction period and establishing regional communication mechanism in a bid to make Nathula a truly “smiling border”.

A Friendly Pilgrimage Route

Situated in Ali area of TAR, which is at an average altitude of over 4500 meters (around 14,760 feet), Kailash Manasarovar are the sacred mountain and lake for religions such as Buddhism, Hinduism and Bonism. Indian pilgrimage to Tibet has a long history. In 1954, China and India signed the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse between Tibet Region of China and India, which stipulates “pilgrimage by religious believers of the two countries shall be carried on in accordance at the pilgrimage sites designated by both parties”, thus officially starting pilgrimage-related matters. Till 1981, after ups and downs, China began to accept yatras by official Indian pilgrims to Kailash Manasarovar. Before 2015, Indian pilgrims entered Tibet through Qiang La (Lipulekh) Pass, and trekked through mountains and rivers on the plateau 19,000 feet above sea level. A number of senior pilgrims were unable to finish this hard journey. To fulfill more Indian pilgrims’ dream of yatra, the Chinese government opened an additional pilgrimage route and increased quotas for Indian pilgrims. According to the consensus reached by President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, the Chinese side opened the pilgrimage route through Nathula Pass for official Indian pilgrims in 2015. Compared with Qiang La Pass, this route is safer, more comfortable and convenient. It gives the aged and frail pilgrims an opportunity to fulfill their dream of yatras.

When Indian pilgrims walk across Nathula Pass from India to China, they go through entry formalities at Yadong customs and immigration, and are well received with a brief and warm ceremony. Subsequently, the Indian pilgrims move to Renqinggang border trade market and have lunch at the pilgrim reception center. They are also provided foreign exchange service. After a short break, the Indian pilgrims depart from Yadong County by tour buses and embark on their journey to Kailash Manasarovar. Along the way they can enjoy beautiful scenery such as snow-capped mountains, lakes, vast grasslands and blossoming flowers, and experience the delightful feeling of relaxation.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China and Ministry of External Affairs of India have made great efforts in coordination and established the Contact Mechanism for Indian Pilgrims. The government of TAR has undertaken heavy logistics work. As Kailash Mansarovar are located in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, which is known as Roof of the World, the natural conditions over there are harsh. However, the TAR invested significant funds and manpower to build reception centers, hotels, roads, bridges and rest areas. Professional guides and interpreters have been trained, and first-aid services have been made available. Indian chefs have been dispatched to prepare vegetarian food. On average, for every three pilgrims, one local staff assists them during the yatra. Every year before pilgrimage starts, the Chinese Embassy in India will transfer additional visa officers from headquarter to speed up visa processing of Indian pilgrims. It is with the joint efforts and hard work by both sides that the number of pilgrims surged from several hundreds in the 1980s, to more than 20,000 in 2018.

Though pilgrimage time is limited, faith transcends time and space. Pilgrimage is not only about faith of the Indian people, but also serves as a bond to enhance mutual understanding and deepen friendship between the two peoples. It is an important platform to consolidate popular support for China-India relations. China will continue to work closely with India to widen the friendly pilgrimage routes across the border, and bring China-India relations to a new height.

Chronicle of Border Trade Through Nathula Pass

More than 2,000 years ago, Nathula Pass was the main passage of the southern line of the ancient Silk Road and an important part of the ancient Tea Horse Road. The Chinese and Indian inhabitants in the border areas traded goods through Nathula Pass.

In 1894, Yadong was opened as a commercial port, where the government of Qing Dynasty set up the first customs office in Tibet. In the early 20th century, Yadong gradually emerged as an import hub of Tibet.

In 1954, China and India signed the Agreement Between the People’s Republic of China and the Republic of India on Trade and Intercourse Between Tibet Region of China and India.

After 1947, Yadong was the largest land trading port between China and India.

After the Sino-Indian border conflict in 1962, the border trade through Nathula had been closed.

In 1991, A Memorandum Between the Government of China and Government of India on the Resumption of Border Trade was signed.

In 1992, the two sides signed the Protocol on Entry and Exit Procedures for Border Trade.

In 2003, during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to China, the two sides signed the Memorandum on Expanding Border Trade, which respectively designated Renqinggang and Changgu as the venues for border trade markets.

In 2006, the border trade through Nathula Pass was resumed. The two sides agree to open border trade through Nathula Pass from May to November annually, and the trade continues from Monday to Thursday weekly.

In 2015, the border trade volume through Nathula recorded the highest of 183 million RMB (approximately Rs 1.83 billion). In 2018, the volume reached 111 million RMB (approximately Rs 1.11 billion).

Chronicle of Indian Pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar

In 1954, China and India signed the Agreement on Trade and Intercourse Between Tibet Region of China and India, stipulating that “pilgrimage by religious believers of the two countries shall be carried on in accordance at the pilgrimage sites designated by both parties”.

After the Sino-Indian border conflict in 1962, Indian pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar was interrupted.

In 1981, the Chinese government decided to resume Indian pilgrimage to Kailash Mansarovar. The official Indian pilgrims shall enter China in groups through Qiang La (Lipulekh) Pass in Pulan County, TAR.

In May 2013, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang visited India and the two sides signed the Protocol on Indian Official Pilgrimage (the Kailash Mansarovar Yatra) to the Tibet Autonomous Region of China.

In 2014, during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India, the two sides reached a consensus on opening an additional pilgrimage route to Kailash Manasarover in Tibet, China through Nathula Pass.

In 2015, the pilgrimage route through Nathula Pass was officially opened. A total of 240 official Indian pilgrims in 5 batches paid homage to Kailash Mansarovar in Tibet, China through Nathula Pass in the same year.

In 2016, a total of 350 official pilgrims in 7 batches made pilgrimages to Tibet, China through Nathula Pass. The number of pilgrims through Qiang La Pass increased to 1080 in 18 batches per year.

In 2017, 500 official Indian pilgrims in 10 batches made pilgrimages to Tibet, China through Nathula Pass.

In 2018, 500 official Indian pilgrims in 10 batches made pilgrimages to Tibet, China through Nathula Pass.

In 2019, 500 official Indian pilgrims are expected to make pilgrimages to Kailash Mansarovar through Nathula Pass in 10 batches starting from this June.

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