China's Muslim-dominated Xinjiang Uyghur province today made a strong pitch for opening up direct border trade with India, which is currently done through Pakistan's Rawalpindi city, citing improvement in the economic ties between the two countries.
Xinjiang province's trade with India is currently conducted through Pakistan as there are no border posts, Shu Dagang, Vice Chairman of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, told a media briefing here.
Every year, Indian traders and Xinjiang businessmen meet at Rawalpindi to discuss the trade volume and items, he said answering a question.
With the deepening of India-China ties, Xinjiang, which shares borders with Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK) besides a host of central Asian states and Russia looks towards developing direct trade links between New Delhi and Kashghar, a border town in Xinjiang.
It only takes about 50 minutes by air from New Delhi to Kashghar and the land distance between both is about 1200 km.
"With our trade relationship deepening, this link also will be developed and promoted," Shu said.
Relations between Xinjiang and India, which were badly hit after India-China hostilities in 1962, were looking up in recent times.
The province's Governor Nur Bekri visited India last November with a big trade delegation to explore possibilities of stepping up direct trade between the two sides.
Despite very close ties, the trade between Pakistan and Xinjiang is hardly $400 million, whereas the province had overall turnover of $22.8 billion with neighbouring countries last year.
Shu, however, played down Xinjiang's concerns over cross- border terrorism from Pakistan, saying that the problem is being effectively handled through the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in which Pakistan and India are observers.
The 12th SCO summit will begin here tomorrow. Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari and Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishana will be attending it.
Xinjiang is experiencing ethnic turbulence for the past several years with the Uyghurs agitating against the increasing settlements of Han Chinese.