Chinese have ulterior motive, say Tibetans in Sikkim

Distrustful of the Chinese, the Tibetan community here views the developments with suspicion, and are working hard to bring about a complete ban on Chinese goods. That hasn’t, however, dampened the spirits of Chief Minister Pawan Chamling who had petitioned for the re-opening of the trade route ever since he first came to power in 1994. In an official statement made shortly after the announcement, Chamling thanked the Centre and the prime minister in particular for delivering on his government’s “long-pending” demand.
A number of advantages would flow from the decision to reopen trade route through Sikkim, which could serve as an important transit point for trade between the two countries, he said. “This will not only build good relations between India and China, but as far as Sikkim is concerned, it will boost commercial and export-oriented activities in the state tremendously,” he said. He said it was now time for the state to be equipped with a dry-port.

Tibetans however don’t quite agree with the official view. “The opening of the trade route is good, but we can’t trust the Chinese. They always have an ulterior motive to whatever they do,” said Nawang Norbu, Tibetan Welfare Officer of the Dalai Lama’s government-in-exile posted in Sikkim. “So far Sikkim has been a very peaceful state, once the trade route opens I fear there will be security problems. As far as the Tibetans are concerned I don’t think we stand to benefit anything from it.” Added Zimba Phensok, president of the Tibetan Youth Club in Gangtok: “I hope the Indian government is aware of the dumping. Local entrepreneurs could get wiped out by imitation Chinese products.”

Tibetans here have for some time now working to impose a ban on all Chinese goods, easily available in Gangtok. Tibet support groups and sympathetic individuals all over the world were working on the boycott campaign which was launched by the Mumbai-based Friends of Tibet organisation said a senior Tibetan who left Tibet in the sixties. A regular at every protest rally organised by Tibetans, he alleged, speaking on conditions of anonymity, that one of the reasons why Chinese goods were so cheap was because China had access to free labour in the form of prisoners and people detained in concentration camps. “However small our buying power may be, we refuse to be a part of China’s corrupt and colonial regime. Even his Holiness the Dalai Lama had appealed to the international community to boycott Chinese products way back in the year 1996,” he said.

Rinzing Bhutia, a Tibetan who runs a foreign goods shop at Gangtok’s Lall Bazar, for his part says, that the resumption of trade really means nothing. “What I desire is to see Tibet free. The opening of the trade route will hold no benefits for Tibetans. We will definitely not be allowed to be part of the trade and I am sure they (Chinese) will not allow us to visit Tibet either,” he said.

And it hasn’t even been a week since India and China declared the reopening of trade through Nathu La

By Pema Wangchuk(