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India, China Reopen Himalayan 'Silk Road' Crossing


India and China have reopened an ancient Himalayan trade route for the first time since the two neighbors fought a border war in 1962.

Officials from both sides held a festive ceremony on Thursday to inaugurate the Nathu La mountain pass. The crossing, four-thousand-300-meters high, lies on the border between India's Sikkim state and China's Tibet region.

Nathu La was once part of the Silk Road, the trade network that linked the people and traditions of Asia with those in Europe, more than a thousand years ago.

Indian and Chinese soldiers and traders cheered as the crossing opened today, and military bands played. Enthusiastic businessmen crowded trade fairs on both sides of the border.

Authorities have set up a bank, telecommunications center and customs facility for merchants trading at Nathu La.

India will be able to export 29 commodities to China through the pass, mostly food products. Chinese traders will be allowed to sell 15 types of goods to India, including animal products such as goat and sheep skins, wool and silk.

India and China kept the trade route closed for 44 years due to mutual suspicions resulting from their 1962 border war, but improved relations in recent years made it possible to reopen the crossing.

China's trade with India rose to 18-point-seven billion dollars last year with a 37-percent increase over 2004. The vast majority of commerce trade takes place via sea and air.

A China expert at New Delhi's Jawaharlal Nehru University, Alka Acharya says trade volume through Nathu La is likely to grow substantially in the future, helping to end the Himalayan region's isolation.

Paramashish Ghosh Roy has more on the story.

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