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Nathu La
Nathu La
( Devanagari
Devanagari
नाथू ला; Tibetan: རྣ་ཐོས་ལ་, IAST: Nāthū Lā, Chinese: 乃堆拉山口; pinyin: Nǎiduīlā Shānkǒu) is a mountain pass in the Himalayas
Himalayas
in East Sikkim
Sikkim
district. It connects the Indian state of Sikkim
Sikkim
with China's Tibet
Tibet
Autonomous Region. The pass, at 4,310 m (14,140 ft) above mean sea level,[1] forms a part of an offshoot of the ancient Silk Road. Nathu means "listening ears" and La means "pass" in Tibetan.[2] On the Indian side, the pass is 54 km (34 mi) east of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim. Only citizens of India
India
can visit the pass, and then only after obtaining a permit in Gangtok. Nathu La
Nathu La
is one of the three open trading border posts between China and India; the others are Shipkila
Shipkila
in Himachal Pradesh
Himachal Pradesh
and Lipulekh (or Lipulech) at the trisection point of Uttarakhand–India, Nepal and China.[3] Sealed by India
India
after the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Nathu La was re-opened in 2006 following numerous bilateral trade agreements. The opening of the pass shortens the travel distance to important Hindu and Buddhist pilgrimage sites in the region and was expected to bolster the economy of the region by playing a key role in the growing Sino-Indian trade. However, trade is limited to specific types of goods and to specific days of the week.

Distant mountains of Bhutan, the Tibetan side, and international border fence as seen from the Indian side at Nathu La

It is also one of the five officially agreed Border Personnel Meeting points between the Indian Army
Indian Army
and the People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
of China
China
for regular consultations and interactions between the two armies to improve relations.[4]

Contents

1 History 2 Geography 3 Flora and fauna 4 Economy

4.1 Transport

5 See also 6 References 7 Further reading 8 External links

History[edit] Nathu La
Nathu La
is located on the 563 km (350 mi) Old Silk Route, an offshoot of the historic Silk Road. The Old Silk Route connects Lhasa
Lhasa
in Tibet
Tibet
to the plains of Bengal
Bengal
to the south. In 1815, trade volume increased after the British annexed territories belonging to the Sikkimese, Nepalese, and Bhutanese. The potential of Nathu La
Nathu La
was realised in 1873, after the Darjeeling
Darjeeling
Deputy Commissioner published a report on the strategic importance of mountain passes between Sikkim and Tibet. In December 1893, the Sikkimese monarchy and Tibetan rulers signed an agreement to increase trade between the two nations.[2] The agreement culminated in 1894 when the trade pass was opened.[5]

Nathu La
Nathu La
Pass Indo China
China
Border

Nathu La
Nathu La
played a vital role in the 1903–1904 British expedition to Tibet, which sought to prevent the Russian Empire from interfering in Tibetan affairs and thus gaining a foothold in the region. In 1904, Major Francis Younghusband, serving as the British Commissioner to Tibet, led a successful mission through Nathu La
Nathu La
to capture Lhasa. This led to the setting up of trading posts at Gyantse
Gyantse
and Gartok
Gartok
in Tibet, and gave control of the surrounding Chumbi Valley
Chumbi Valley
to the British. The following November, China
China
and Great Britain ratified an agreement approving trade between Sikkim
Sikkim
and Tibet.[6][7]

Nathu la pass with soldiers

In 1947 and 1948, a popular vote for Sikkim
Sikkim
to join newly independent India
India
failed and Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru
Jawaharlal Nehru
agreed to a special protectorate status for Sikkim. Sikkim
Sikkim
agreed to be a protectorate nation and Indian troops were allowed to man its borders, including Nathu La. During this period, more than 1,000 mules and 700 people were involved in cross-border trade through Nathu La.[5] In 1949, when the Tibetan government expelled the Chinese living there, most of the displaced Chinese returned home through the Nathu La–Sikkim–Kolkata route.[8] The current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, used this pass to travel to India
India
for the 2,500th birthday celebration of Gautama Buddha, which was held between November 1956 and February 1957.[9] Later, on 1 September 1958, Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi, and Palden Thondup Namgyal (son of—and internal affairs adviser to—Tashi Namgyal, the Chogyal
Chogyal
of Sikkim) used this pass to travel to nearby Bhutan. After the People's Republic of China
China
took control of Tibet
Tibet
in 1950 and suppressed a Tibetan uprising in 1959, the passes into Sikkim
Sikkim
became a conduit for refugees from Tibet. During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Nathu La
Nathu La
witnessed skirmishes between soldiers of the two countries. Shortly thereafter, the passage was sealed and remained closed for more than four decades. Between 7 and 13 September 1967, China's People's Liberation Army
People's Liberation Army
and the Indian Army
Indian Army
had six-day "border skirmishes", including the exchange of heavy artillery fire.[10] In 1975, Sikkim
Sikkim
acceded to India
India
and Nathu La
Nathu La
became part of Indian territory. China, however, refused to acknowledge the accession at that time.

Indian War memorial at Nathu La

The Chinese Military Checkpost in Nathu La

In 2003, with the thawing of Sino-Indian relations, Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to China
China
led to the resumption of talks on opening the border. Later in 2004, the Indian Defence Minister's visit to China
China
led to the formal opening of the pass. The opening, originally scheduled for 2 October 2005, was postponed due to last-minute infrastructure problems on the Chinese side. Finally, after a decade of talks, Nathu La
Nathu La
was opened on 6 July 2006.[11] The date of the reopening, which also formally recognised Tibet
Tibet
as part of China
China
by India
India
and Sikkim's accession to India,[7] coincided with the birthday of the reigning Dalai Lama.[7] In the years before the reopening, the only person permitted to cross the barbed-wire frontier had been a Chinese postman with an Indian military escort, who would hand over mail to his Indian counterpart in a building at the border. The opening of the pass was marked by a ceremony on the Indian side that was attended by officials from both countries. A delegation of 100 traders from India
India
and 100 Tibetans crossed the border to respective trading towns. Despite heavy rain and chilly winds, the ceremony was marked by the attendance of many officials, locals, and international and local media.[11] The barbed wire fence between India and China
China
was replaced by a 10 m (30 ft) wide stone-walled passageway.[12] It was also decided to mark the year 2006 as the year of Sino-Indian friendship.[12][13] Geography[edit]

Geography
Geography
of the region

The pass is 54 km (34 mi) east of Gangtok, the capital of Sikkim
Sikkim
and 430 km (270 mi) from Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.[14][15] In the winter, the pass is blocked by heavy snowfall. Because there is no meteorological centre in Nathu La, systematic measurements of meteorological data (such as temperature and rainfall) are not available for the region.[16] However, it is known that in the higher reaches of the Himalayas
Himalayas
around the region, summer temperature never exceeds 15 °C (59 °F).[17]

Nathu La
Nathu La
is prone to massive land slides

One of the many lakes on the way to Nathu La.

Nathu La
Nathu La
has moderately shallow, excessively drained, coarse, and loamy soil on a steep slope (30–50%) with gravelly loamy surface, moderate erosion, and moderate stoniness.[14] It has several sinking zones and parts of it are prone to landslides.[18] To preserve the fragile environment of Nathu La
Nathu La
on the Indian side, the government of India
India
regulates the flow of tourists. Road maintenance is entrusted to Border Roads Organisation, a wing of the Indian Army.[19] On the Chinese side the pass leads to the Chumbi Valley
Chumbi Valley
of the Tibetan Plateau.[20] Flora and fauna[edit]

Vegetation
Vegetation
of the region

Because of the steep elevation increase around the pass, the vegetation graduates from sub-tropical forest at its base, to a temperate region, to a wet and dry alpine climate, and finally to cold tundra desert devoid of vegetation. Around Nathu La
Nathu La
and the Tibetan side, the region has little vegetation besides scattered shrubs. Major species found in the region include dwarf rhododendrons (Rhododendron anthopogon, R. setosum) and junipers. The meadows include the genera Poa, Meconopsis, Pedicularis, Primula, and Aconitum. The region has a four-month growing season during which grasses, sedges, and medicinal herbs grow abundantly and support a host of insects, wild and domestic herbivores, larks, and finches. The nearby Kyongnosla Alpine Sanctuary has rare, endangered ground orchida and rhododendrons interspersed among tall junipers and silver firs.[21] There are no permanent human settlements in the region, though it has a large number of defence personnel who man the borders on both sides. A small number of nomadic Tibetan graziers or Dokpas herd yak, sheep and pashmina-type goats in the region. There has been intense grazing pressure due to domestic and wild herbivores on the land. Yaks are found in these parts, and in many hamlets they serve as beasts of burden.[22] The region around Nathu La
Nathu La
contains many endangered species, including Tibetan gazelle, snow leopard, Tibetan wolf, Tibetan snowcock, lammergeier, raven, golden eagle, and ruddy shelduck. Feral dogs are considered a major hazard in this region. The presence of landmines in the area causes casualties among yak, nayan, kiang, and Tibetan wolf.[23] The avifauna consists of various types of laughing thrushes, which live in shrubs and on the forest floor. The blue whistling-thrush, redstarts, and forktails are found near waterfalls and hill-streams. The mixed hunting species present in the region include warblers, tit-babblers, treecreepers, white-eyes, wrens, and rose finches. Raptors such as black eagle, black-winged kite and kestrels; and pheasants such as monals and blood pheasant are also found.[23] Economy[edit]

Indian and Chinese officers at Nathu La

Up until 1962, before the pass was sealed, goods such as pens, watches, cereals, cotton cloth, edible oils, soaps, building materials, and dismantled scooters and four-wheelers were exported to Tibet
Tibet
through the pass on mule-back. Two hundred mules, each carrying about 80 kilograms (180 lb) of load, were used to ferry goods from Gangtok
Gangtok
to Lhasa, which used to take 20–25 days. Upon return, silk, raw wool, musk pods, medicinal plants, country liquor, precious stones, gold, and silverware were imported into India.[24] Most of the trade in those days was carried out by the Marwari community, which owned 95% of the 200 authorised firms.[7] Since July 2006, trading is open Mondays through Thursdays.[11] Exports from India
India
exempted from duty include agricultural implements, blankets, copper products, clothes, cycles, coffee, tea, barley, rice, wheat, flour, dry fruits, vegetables, vegetable oil, tobacco, snuff, spices, shoes, kerosene oil, stationery, utensils, milk processed products, canned food, dyes, and local herbs. Chinese exports to India exempted from duty include goat skin, sheep skin, wool, raw silk, yak tail, yak hair, china clay, borax, butter, common salt, horses, goats, and sheep.[3][25] Restrictions are placed on traders, with permits only given to those who were Sikkimese citizens before the kingdom merged with India
India
in 1975.

Natu La- flowering rhododendron in 1938 Tibet
Tibet
Expedition

There were fears among some traders in India
India
that Indian goods would find a limited outlet in Tibet, while China
China
would have access to a ready market in Sikkim
Sikkim
and West Bengal.[26] The reopening of the pass was expected to stimulate the economy of the region and bolster Indo-Chinese trade, but this has not happened. Figures released by the Tibet
Tibet
Autonomous Regional Bureau of Commerce show that in the 51 days of trading in 2006, only US$186,250 worth of trade passed through Nathu La.[27]

Pilgrims from Tibet
Tibet
may be able to make a pilgrimage to the Rumtek monastery, one of Buddhism's holiest shrines

On the Indian side, only citizens of India
India
can visit the pass on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays,[14] after obtaining permits one day in advance in Gangtok.[28] The pass is particularly useful for pilgrims visiting monasteries in Sikkim
Sikkim
such as Rumtek, one of the holiest shrines in Buddhism. For Hindus, the pass reduces the journey time to Mansarovar Lake
Mansarovar Lake
from fifteen days to two days.[29] A major concern of the Indian government is the trafficking of wildlife products such as tiger and leopard skins and bones, bear gall bladders, otter pelts, and shahtoosh wool into India. The Indian government has undertaken a program to sensitise the police and other law enforcement agencies in the area. Most of such illicit trade currently takes place via Nepal.[30] Transport[edit] On the Tibetan side two highways — from Kangmar to Yadong
Yadong
and from Yadong
Yadong
to Nathu La
Nathu La
— were listed in the 2006 construction plans. Plans are also underway to extend the Qinghai- Tibet
Tibet
Railway to Yadong over the next decade.[31] The nearest railheads are New Jalpaiguri
New Jalpaiguri
(Siliguri) in India
India
and Xigazê
Xigazê
in China. The Chinese government is planning to extend its rail service to Yadong, a few kilometers (miles) from Nathu La.[32] In addition, the Government of India
India
is planning an extension of rail services from Sevoke
Sevoke
in Darjeeling
Darjeeling
district to Sikkim's capital Gangtok, 38 miles (61 km) from Nathu La.[33] See also[edit]

Dongkha La Lake Tsongmo Khunjerab Pass
Khunjerab Pass
(the only other major border pass to China
China
open in South Asia) Nathu La
Nathu La
incident Baba Harbhajan Singh

References[edit]

^ "Nathu La". Archived from the original on 17 June 2015. Retrieved 15 April 2015.  ^ a b Pradhan, Keshav (6 July 2006). "In the good ol' days of Nathu-la". Times of India, Mumbai. Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. p. 10.  ^ a b "Nathula reopens for trade after 44 years". "Zee News". 6 July 2006. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2006.  ^ "Indian soldiers prevent Chinese troops from constructing road in Arunachal". The Times of India. 28 October 2014. Archived from the original on 1 December 2017. Retrieved 11 November 2017.  ^ a b "Historical Review". China
China
Tibet
Tibet
Information Center. 5 July 2006. Archived from the original on 12 February 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Carrington, Michael: "Officers Gentlemen and Thieves: The Looting of Monasteries during the 1903/4 Younghusband Mission to Tibet", Modern Asian Studies 37, 1 (2003), pp. 81–109. ^ a b c d Pradhan, Keshav (6 July 2006). "Trading Heights". Times of India, Mumbai. Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. p. 10.  ^ "Nathu La: 'Sweetness and light'". Rediff.com. 6 July 2006. Archived from the original on 18 July 2006. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Datta Ray, Sunanda K (10 July 2006). "Nathu La: It's more than revival of a trade route". Phayul.com. Archived from the original on 16 October 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006.  ^ Sreedhar (1998). " China
China
Becoming A Superpower and India's Options". Across the Himalayan Gap: An Indian Quest for Understanding China
China
(Ed. Tan Chung). Indira Gandhi
Indira Gandhi
National Centre for the Arts, New Delhi. Archived from the original on 12 February 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ a b c "Historic India- China
China
link opens". BBC News. 6 July 2006. Archived from the original on 7 July 2006. Retrieved 6 July 2006.  ^ a b Hong'e, Mo (6 July 2006). "China, India
India
raise national flags at border pass to restart business". China
China
View. Archived from the original on 24 October 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2006.  ^ "Activities planned for India- China
China
Friendship Year – 2006". Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India. 23 January 2006. Archived from the original on 20 October 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2007.  ^ a b c Envis Team (4 June 2006). "Ecodestination of India-Sikkim Chapter" (PDF). Eco-destinations of India. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. p. 43. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Saha, Sambit (8 September 2003). "Trading post: Prospects of Nathu-La". Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 24 February 2006. Retrieved 4 December 2006.  ^ Envis Team (30 June 2006). "Vol-IV Water Environment" (PDF). Carrying Capacity Study of Teesta Basin in Sikkim. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. pp. 30–31. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2007.  ^ Envis Team (4 June 2006). "Ecodestination of India- Sikkim
Sikkim
Chapter" (PDF). Eco-destinations of India. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. p. 33. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Kaur, Naunidhi (2 August 2003). "A route of hope". Volume 20 – Issue 16. Frontline Magazine. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2006.  ^ Dutta, Sujan (20 November 2006). "Nathu-la wider road reply to Beijing". The Telegraph. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2006.  ^ "The legend of Nathu La". Rediff.com. 6 July 2006. Archived from the original on 5 January 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2006.  ^ Envis Team (4 June 2006). "Ecodestination of India- Sikkim
Sikkim
Chapter" (PDF). Eco-destinations of India. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. p. 114. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Envis Team (4 June 2006). "Ecodestination of India- Sikkim
Sikkim
Chapter" (PDF). Eco-destinations of India. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ a b Envis Team (4 June 2006). "Ecodestination of India-Sikkim Chapter" (PDF). Eco-destinations of India. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. p. 44. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Roy, Ambar Singh (25 November 2003). "Nathula 'Pass'port to better trade prospects with China". Hindu Business Line. The Hindu. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2006.  ^ Ministry of Commerce & Industry, Government of India
India
(23 August 2006). "Trade Between India
India
And China
China
Through Nathu La
Nathu La
Pass". Press Information Bureau: Press releases. NIC. Archived from the original on 10 December 2007. Retrieved 16 February 2007.  ^ "Nathu-la shows the way: It opens a new route to amity". The Tribune. 8 August 2006. Archived from the original on 15 December 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2006.  ^ " Nathu La
Nathu La
Pass on Sino-Indian border closes". China
China
Daily. 15 October 2006. Archived from the original on 19 January 2007. Retrieved 19 February 2007.  ^ Envis Team (4 June 2006). "Ecodestination of India- Sikkim
Sikkim
Chapter" (PDF). Eco-destinations of India. The Environmental Information System (ENVIS), Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India. p. 45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2007. Retrieved 1 December 2006.  ^ Vinayak, G (28 July 2004). "Nathu La: closed for review". The Rediff Special. Rediff.com. Archived from the original on 22 February 2006. Retrieved 26 November 2006.  ^ Perappadan, Bindu Shajan (23 June 2006). "Doubts over traffickers using re-opened Nathula Pass". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 6 July 2006.  ^ " China
China
to build three railways in Tibet". China
China
Daily. 29 June 2006. Archived from the original on 25 July 2008. Retrieved 22 May 2008.  ^ Asia Times Online :: South Asia
South Asia
news, business and economy from India
India
and Pakistan ^ North Bengal- Sikkim
Sikkim
Railway Link – Railway Technology Archived 23 July 2012 at the Wayback Machine.

Further reading[edit]

Alice S. Kandell
Alice S. Kandell
hiding behind a Sikkimese soldier to take a photograph of a Chinese soldier along the Nathu La
Nathu La
pass, Sikkim, 1965 December.

Bashar, Iftekharul (14 July 2006). "Indio-Chinese relations going back to Silk Route". Weekly Holiday. Archived from the original on 16 July 2007. Retrieved 2 December 2006.  Carrington, Michael, "Officers Gentlemen and Thieves: The Looting of Monasteries during the 1903/4 Younghusband Mission to Tibet", Modern Asian Studies 37, 1 (2003), pp. 81–109. Forbes, Andrew ; Henley, David (2011). China's Ancient Tea Horse Road. Chiang Mai: Cognoscenti Books. ASIN: B005DQV7Q2 Harris, Tina (2013). Geographical Diversions: Tibetan Trade, Global Transactions. University of Georgia Press, United States. ISBN 0820345733. pp. 208. Huggler, Justin; Coonan, Clifford (20 June 2006). " China
China
reopens a passage to India". The Independent. p. 124. Archived from the original on 18 October 2006. 

External links[edit]

This article contains Indic text. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks or boxes, misplaced vowels or missing conjuncts instead of Indic text.

Nathu La Mountain Passes of Sikkim Places of interest for tourists and trekkers The dictionary definition of Nathu La
Nathu La
at Wiktionary Quotations related to Nathula at Wikiquote Media related to Nathu La
Nathu La
at Wikimedia Commons News related to India, China
China
reopen Nathu La
Nathu La
pass at Wikinews

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