Nathu La is a mountain pass which connects Sikkim with China's Tibet Autonomous Region. Perched at an elevation of 4,310 m above sea level, it is situated about 54 km east of Gangtok. Only Indians are allowed to visit the pass on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays with a prior permit at Gangtok. There is also an Indian war memorial present here.
One can hardly find any human settlement at the place, except for a few men from the defence who have been entrusted the work of guarding the borders on both sides. The pass has many sinking zones and is even prone to massive landslides.
The word 'Nathu' means 'listening ears' and 'La' means 'pass' in Tibetan language. The Nathu La pass happens to be one among the three open trading posts in the border between India and China. This pass was sealed in the year 1962, following the Sino-India war and was reopened only in the year 2006 after various bilateral trade agreements were signed. The opening of the pass was celebrated with an event that was attended by officials from either sides of the border.
However, though it was expected that allowing access to the pass would improve the trade and economy of the region, it hasn't shown any significant improvement so far. But re-opening the pass has reduced the travel distance to various Buddhist and Hindu pilgrimage centres in his region.
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Geography of Nathu La
The pass is situated 54 km towards the East of Gangtok. It remains blocked during winter due to excess snowfall. The road maintenance work of this area has been assigned to the Indian Army wing – Border Roads Organization.