Nepal-China Border reopens to joy and angst of traders

By Tsering Choephel

DHARAMSALA, 04 May: Three trucks from Nepal carrying export goods were unexpectedly barred from crossing the Nepal-Tibet border at Tatopani by the Chinese authorities citing a new rule that prohibited the entry of trucks from Nepal into Chinese-occupied Tibet.

“We are not aware of the new rule at the border. Seven to eight containers, mostly loaded with apples and garlic, have been arriving at Tatopani from China,” The Kathmandu Post quoted Dayananda KC, chief of the Tatopani Customs Office as saying in its report on Tuesday.

“Since China has not allowed Nepali containers to enter Khasa, this has increased the cost for traders,” KC added.

The new rule has forced the contents in the trucks from Nepal to be reloaded into Chinese trucks for onward transport to points in Tibet.

Tatopani Border Point at Tatopani-Khasa trade route which was closed after the earthquake in April 2015 reopened on Monday after 8 years. Travellers are still prohibited to cross the border into Tibet.

Named China National Highway 318 in China and Araniko Highway in Nepal, which was opened in the late 1960s, retraces the old caravan trade route.

From ancient times until the complete occupation of Tibet in 1959 by China, this border area known as Dram in Tibetan and Khasa in Nepali, was one of the key pitstop on the centuries-old trans-Himalayan caravan trade route.

Though China and Nepal signed Trade and Transit Agreement in 2016 to avoid Nepal’s total dependency on India, the Kathmandu Post reported last month that not a single shipment has moved from seven Chinese ports of transit that Nepal can access under the agreement.

While Nepal has signed up to China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and the number of Chinese tourists in Nepal keeps burgeoning, the security of border between the two countries remains fragile. A leaked Nepalese government report in 2021 accused China of encroaching into Nepal’s territory along their shared border in Humla District which is one of the three key border points between Tibet and Nepal.

The third Nepal-Tibet border point Rasuwagadhi-Kerung was opened on 1 May as agreed by the Nepal-China border trade mechanism during their meeting in Lhasa on March 29.

Though the reopening of borders is eagerly welcomed after years of shutdown, Nepali traders are apprehensive about the reliability of China policy and called for a consistent trade and transit policy.

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