China Expanding Rail Networks, Wants India To Join In With Nepal

As China and Nepal, bilaterally, agreed to extend the Tibet railway network to Nepal, China wants India to join in on the rail network too. According to Zhang Yun, director of the Institute of History Studies of the China Tibetology Research Centre, both the Chinese Premier Li Keqiang and Nepalese premier K.P.Oli have expressed the desire that this rail line should link all three countries.

Zhang an advisor on Tibetan affairs in China, said that the railway network of China, Nepal and India would be connected soon. This way all three would benefit. He said, “It is our strong will to form synergy between the rail networks of all three countries.”

China has been aggressively following its policy to increase rail connectivity in Tibet. In 2006, a rail link with Lhasa was established. The beautiful, ultra-modern, high altitude rail network that China has built and which runs through tunnels and at great heights in some places, is an engineering marvel as well as a showpiece of China’s determination to massively finance TAR (Tibet Autonomous Region).

Broad roads and flyovers link up even remote Tibetan villages. The world’s highest railway station has been built in Tanggula and the world’s highest airport Daocheng Yading airport has aslo been built by the Chinese in Tibetan regions.

“Infra structure growth will keep progressing. Farmers and herdsmen will get development not just cities.” Mr. Zhang said.

A new project that began last year, construction of a 253-km (157-mile) line to Shigatse, the seat of the Panchen Lama (second in importance to the Dalai Lama), will be able to carry 8.3 million tonnes of freight a year, and will cost 13.3 billion yuan, around $2 billion to build. Another rail link is expected to be built within the next five years to Nyingchi, in eastern Tibet, Xinhua said.

China also plans the Qinghai-Tibet rail link to connect TAR to the mainland, linking Lhasa with Chengdu. Chinese experts say the project would have to pass through seismic zones in the Himalayas and some amount of difficulty is expected. The project can be expected to be completed in 5 years and will require at least 4 billion dollars.

“The rail link could be a very good opportunity for the country to connect to India and would enhance bilateral relations,” an official said.

Now, the Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has asked Chinese premier Li Keqiang for Chinese help to build a railway network within the country and also to build a network linking the Tibetan border town Gyirong to Lumbini, birthplace of Buddha. Chinese firms are being asked to look at the internal rail plan to work out how the network could be extended to Nepal.

In any case, China had already planned to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Xigaze to Gyirong on the Nepali border. After the Oli-Li meeting, the two countries signed as many as 10 agreements. One of them was to provide another route for transit of goods from and to Nepal. Currently, Nepal transits its goods through Kolkata port.

Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies told Global Times that the railway may lessen Nepal’s dependence on India but does not mean that China is trying to compete with India for influence on Nepal.

The latest news is that China is planning to build a tunnel under Mount Everest, called Qomolangma in Tibetan. This is part of its plan to extend its rail network to Nepal, the state run China Daily said on Thursday.

“The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma so that workers may have to dig some very long tunnels,” railway expert Wang Mengshu told China Daily.

He added that the terrain was a difficult one so the speed speed of trains on the proposed Nepal line would be restricted at 120 km per hour.

This is the first time a tunnel plan has been made to reach Nepal. The idea is to construct the shortest possible route to India for purposes of trade.

China could also attempt to tie-up Nepal for its Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) project because New Delhi so far has shown little interest for this corridor, sources said.

“If the proposal becomes a reality, bilateral trade, especially in agricultural products, will get a strong boost, along with tourism and people-to-people exchange,” Wang said.

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