The Border Post of Nathu-La is open for business again on July 06, 2006 after a long gap of 44 years. The Pass was a major trading point between India and Tibet till it was closed in 1962 following the Indo-China Border War.
Nathu-La Pass is situated at a height of 4,545 metres above sea level between the Yadong County of Tibet’s Xigaze Prefecture and India’s Sikkim State.
The Official yarn being peddled is that India and China decided to reopen this Border post for trade after China recognised Sikkim as part of Indian Territory in 2003 in return for India recognising Tibet as part of China.
But a closer inspection reveals a more murkier tale. Though China’s Foreign affairs ministry official website has long since removed Sikkim as a Independent state from its list of Countries and Regions of the World, there is no official statement saying candidly that China recognises Sikkim as a part of India.
On the contrary this link is still active on the website. It states in no uncertain terms that “The Chinese Government does not recognize India’s illegal annexation of Sikkim”.This page comes up in the first page of Googling for the term “China and Sikkim”.
Alongside it also crops up the the link to the Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Liu Jianchao’s Press Conference on May 18, 2004. To a pointed question “Does China regard Sikkim as a part of India?” He replied “The question of Sikkim is left over from history. We have to respect history and take reality into consideration. I believe that the question will be solved gradually with the improvement and development of Sino-Indian relations”.
So there was “no official statement” that China recognises Sikkim as part of India. But yet the Indian Media had gone to town since May 07, 2004 with claims that the “World Affairs Yearbook 2003-2004” published by the Chinese Foreign Ministry showed Sikkim as part of India.The reports had appeared in The Hindu and The Tribune
Even a week after the above Press conference Frontline published an article dated May 22-June 04, 2004, titled China’s gesture the article claims that “China acknowledges India’s sovereignty over Sikkim by issuing a revised map of the relevant region”.
It published a photocopy of the map published in the World Affairs Year Book 2003-2004 which it said does not show Sikkim as an independent country. The article agrees that China’s moves on the diplomatic front relating to Sikkim since 2003 have fallen “dramatically” short of a “formal declaration” or an “official pronouncement” which Beijing could perhaps have made to signal a categorical acceptance of India’s sovereignty over Sikkim.
It makes no mention Whatsoever about the May 18, 2004 Press conference. And to date there doesn’t seem to be a Quotable Quote from any Chinese leader or Official spokesmen that Sikkim is a part of India.
Though Chinese PM Wen Jiabao during his April 2005 visit to India had according to the Indian Media emphasised that Sikkim is a part of India by saying that “This is no longer an issue in Indo-China relations”.
But then in the News conference PM Wen Jiabao had said no such thing. To a question by a Hindustan News reporter who asked “the issue of Sikkim has been resolved. When will China and India start the border trade in this region? And on the basis of this, how to reduce the tension in the boundary region so as to help our two countries better resolve the disputes over the boundary issue?” He had replied “It is well known that the issue of Sikkim is no longer the problem between China and India. This is the common consensus reached by the leaders of both countries.”
So again No straightforward answer from any Chinese leader even as late as 2005 and that is where it all still stands to this day when India and China have reopened the Border post of Nathu La after 44 years. It is a failure of Indian diplomacy that they have not been able to extract a written statement from the Chinese unambiguously declaring Sikkim as a Part of India. It is also a shame on the Indian Media which has completely sold itself out and failed in its duty of upholding India’s National interests.