BORDER TRADE SUSPENDED, UNLIKELY TO RESUME EVEN BY NEXT WEEK
GANGTOK, 11 Oct: Already handicapped by a lethargic bureaucracy, stifling regulations and poor infrastructure, Border Trade between India and China over Nathula has added another ingredient to the mix of issues holding it back – espionage. Tensions have escalated at the border trade region of Nathula here after a Chinese national was apprehended by authorities on charges of espionage yesterday. Even as the incident has triggered hectic backdoor diplomacy between the various agencies of the central government, trading was suspended today over the incident.
In fact, the Chinese authorities, sources inform, have put border trade on the mat saying that they will not allow trade to take place till the arrested person is released and returned.
With the espionage accused having been sent to judicial remand of up to 15 days today, it is unlikely that he can be handed over or released before that time period. In the meantime trade is likely to remain closed even next week with Indian traders unlikely to try their luck the other side of the border even if Chinese immigration allows them through.
There was murmuring among the border traders today that it was unlikely that trade will resume next week either, and if the Chinese maintain their attitude it is going to require some tough talk and diplomacy, if the Indians are capable of it.
A Chinese national, Langki Jiancan, a 20-year-old resident of Shigatse, a city in the Tibetan Autonomous Region was reportedly “intercepted” by the Indo Tibetan Border Police, the paramilitary agency manning the border with TAR, after he was caught taking photographs of a “restricted area” on his mobile phone.
In fact it is informed that on crossing the border at Nathula and while on route to the Sherathang Trade mart which is a couple of kilometers away, he started taking photographs. This is a highly restricted zone and heavily manned by the ITBP. Sources also inform that he was at first warned not to take pictures but as he continued to do so he was then picked up by the ITBP and subsequently handed over to the Sherathang police.
It may be stated here that the person has a valid trade pass and moreover, has relatives on this side of the border, that is, in Sikkim. It is informed that he had come to meet one of his relatives here at the mart site. The FIR, at the Sherathang police station, was filed by the ITBP, Assistant Commandant.
The accused was today produced before the Magistrate, Gangtok courts where the police obtained a remand of 15 days. Langki has been sent up to judicial custody.
His mobile phone has been seized and he has been charged under section 3 (b) of the Official Secrets Act. This section of the Act deals with penalties for spying which says a person is liable if he makes any sketch, plan, model, or note which is calculated to be or might be or is intended to be, directly or indirectly useful to an enemy. Punishment can extend to 14 years imprisonment if the act is committed in relation to any defence establishment or 3 years in any other case.
The trade season had started on a bad note and with just a month and a half to go before it shuts for the year and with this incident it looks like it will end the same way.