China brings its rail network closer to the Indian border

The new extension line will take travelers from Lhasa to Xigaze, also known as Shigatse, in about two hours. The 253-km Lhasa-Xigaze railway line will be open before October

China Xigaze Railway lineBeijing: China is extending the world’s highest Qinghai-Tibet railway line to Panchen Lama hometown of Xigaze as well as taking it closer to the Indian border.

Observers said Chinese authorities are trying to kill two birds with one stone to meet both political and military goals with the move. It is expected to bring more tourists to the China-backed Panchen Lama’s hometown in Tibet and enhance his world image.

China has desperately been preparing for 24-year to counter the Dalai Lama, whom Chinese officials describe as “wolf in lamb’s clothing”.

The young Lama is a member of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, a political advisory body. He spends most of his time in Beijing and holds an important position in the state-backed China Buddhist Association. The seat of Panchan Lama in Xigaze and Dalai Lama’s Potala Palace in Lhasa are regarded as revered sites in Tibetan Buddhism.

The new extension line will take travelers from Lhasa to Xigaze, also known as Shigatse, in about two hours, railway authorities said. The 253-km Lhasa-Xigaze railway line will be open before October. Officials said 93% of the track, including construction of all bridges, culverts, tunnels on the mountain route, has been completed.

The Xigaze region borders India’s Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan. The new extension line will make it easier for the People’s Liberation Army to carry men and machinery to the Indian border at short notice.

The move comes soon after China announced plans to lay a new road linking Tibet’s capital of Lhasa to Nyingchi, a prefecture in southeast Tibet that borders India.

“It could reduce the driving time from Lhasa to Nyingchi by more than two hours,” a senior railway official, Tashi Gyatso, was quoted in the state media as saying.

The Nepalese government has been pleading with China to provide an extension railway line from Xigaze to its border.

The Qinghai-Tibet Railway began service in July 2006 and, according to the report, had positively impacted on Tibet’s tourism, hospitality and manufacturing sectors.

The plateau railway which covers 1,956 km from Xining in Qinghai Province to Lhasa carried 11.7 million passengers and 57.8 million tonnes of cargo in 2013. The announcement comes at a time when the government says that the economy of TAR grew 12.2% in 2013.

Tibetan areas in China have witnessed more than 125 cases of self-immolations where monks and civilians have set themselves on fire demanding the return of the India-based Dalai Lama to China and more autonomy.

Beijing insists that Tibetan regions especially TAR is witnessing impressive development.

The growth rate of TAR was 4.4 percentage points higher than the country’s average, according to the regional statistics bureau.

The gross domestic product (GDP) of Tibet reached 80.767 billion Yuan ($13.19 billion) in 2013, almost double that of 2009, state media reported.

“Tibet has maintained double-digit growth for 21 consecutive years,” Liu Baicheng, head of the regional statistics bureau told state media.

The per capita net income of farmers and herdsmen in the region hit 6,578 yuan in 2013, up 15% year on year. The per capita disposable income of urban residents increased 11.1% year on year to reach 20,023 Yuan.