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Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Silk Route turns vibrant again

Category: Issue 3, News Winners

Silk Route turns vibrant again
By Dr George Karimalil

Nathu-la Pass, the famous Silk Route, situated at a height of 14,400 feet north-east of India has turned historic once again! On 6 July 2006, an Indian policeman and a Chinese soldier stood shoulder to shoulder at the Pass and proved how borders could go soft despite provoking tempers across the region.

The Pass was a vibrant link between China and India, serving as a passage to people from both the sides. It became instrumental in flourishing the trade, benefiting both the countries. But all that came to an abrupt end when they declared war in 1962. And it took 44 years to heal.

The day marked the much-awaited opening of the Pass that remained shut since the War broke out between India and China. Constable Harish Solanki of the Indo Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and a corporal identified as Chang Yeoh stood braving the rain and blustery cold winds on the Pass all through the official ceremonies to mark the opening for trade.

They stood in the middle of the Pass as silent sentinels of their respective countries with the Line of Actual Control (LAC) demarcating India and China passing between the one’s left shoulder and the other’s right. Solanki was deputed to be the honour guard on the line from the Indian side. The ITBP has been posted at Nathu-la Pass to secure the seven kilometre corridor to Sherathang market, the point inside India till where Chinese traders would be permitted to go.

In posting Solanki at the Pass, the Indian side was also complying with a UN convention by which countries agree not to post armies on international boundaries. Viewed from New Delhi, this is a near-final resolution of the issue of Sikkim, whose accession to India in 1975 was objected to by the Chinese. The ITBP is a paramilitary force. The Chinese, however, kept a PLA soldier on the line.

When the ceremony was over and the bands struck the Indian national song and a Chinese number, a total of 89 traders from Yatung region of Tibet crossed over to India and 100 Indian traders from Sikkim to Rinchengang in China.

Behind the Chinese delegation, the atmosphere on the LAC where Solanki and Yeoh stood was now more relaxed. They had been replaced and the new border guardsmen were neither on perches nor standing frozen in attention any more. The skirmishing had stopped and the border went soft once again.

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