China eyeing rail network to Bihar in India through Nepal

A train from Beijing to Bihar? China wants to extend its Nepal rail link to India

China-Nepal-India Rail LinkBeijing: Having already expanded its influence in Nepal with road and rail links through Tibet, China is looking to stretch its rail network to Bihar.

The move is a bid to improve connectivity with India and South Asia, as reported by state-run Chinese media on Tuesday.

Reports suggest that a cross-border railway link to the Rasuwagadhi area in Nepal has already been discussed by the two countries, with the rail expected to reach the Nepal border by 2020.

This rail line will allow China to have quick access to India as Birgunj, which borders Bihar is only 240 km away from Rasuwagadhi, the article said. For Bihar, trade with China through the rail link will be easier along the route than through Kolkata, saving time, cost and distance, it said.

“The railroad connection to China not only is important for Nepal and Nepalese people’s future development, but also has the capacity to build connectivity with the whole of South Asia. The government of Nepal has the chance to make history,” the article said. Bihar’s Rasuwagadhi border point is a reasonable distance from Kathmandu but the district is a very popular site for tourists, thanks to its pilgrimage routes. As it is not very densely populated, empty land is available.

A cross-border railroad link to the Rasuwagadhi area in Nepal has already been discussed between the two countries.

Key Notes:

  1. China’s railroad is expected to reach Nepal border by 2020, an article in the state-run Global Times said
  2. This rail line makes it possible to connect China to India as the distance from Rasuwagadhi to Birgunj, which borders Bihar is only 240 km.
  3. For Bihar, trade with China through the rail link will be easier along this route than through Kolkata, saving time, cost and distance.
  4. The railroad connection to China is not only important for Nepal and Nepalese people’s future development, but also has the capacity to build connectivity with the whole of South Asia. The government of Nepal has the chance to make history.
  5. It also criticised attempts to block major projects in Nepal
  6. Unfortunately due to oversensitivity, some major projects were aborted before even a brick was laid. So the Nepali government must play a key role in bringing all the stakeholders into a sufficient consensus.

This rail line makes it possible to connect China to India as from Rasuwagadhi to Birgunj, which borders Bihar is only 240 km, the article said.

For Bihar, trade with China through the rail link will be easier along this route than through Kolkata, saving time, cost and distance, it said.

“The railroad connection to China not only is important for Nepal and Nepalese people’s future development, but also has the capacity to build connectivity with the whole of South Asia. The government of Nepal has the chance to make history,” the article said. It also criticised attempts to block major projects in Nepal.

“Challenge is both internal and external stakeholders’ sensitivity about mega infrastructure projects. Unfortunately due to oversensitivity, some major projects were aborted before even a brick was laid. So the Nepali government must play a key role in  bringing all the stakeholders into a sufficient consensus,” it said.

While rail and road links with Nepal were regarded strategic for China to blunt India’s influence in the country, analysts said the development of most expansive infrastructure through the rugged Himalayan mountains is viable only if they get connected to India.

India, China bilateral trade currently hovers around USD 70 billion with over USD 48 billion trade deficit in favour of Beijing.

Early this month, in a strategic move to cut landlocked  Nepal’s dependence on India, China opened a combined road and rail service to Kathmandu through the rugged mountain ranges in Tibet to step up transportation of supplies to the Himalayan country.

An international freight train from Lanzhou, the capital city of northwestern China’s Gansu province has been operationalised.

The train will carry the cargo to Xigaze, the nearest Tibetan town close to Nepal from where the goods will be transported to the Nepal by road. The whole journey will take 10 days.

It includes 2,431 kms of rail transport 564 km of road transport to Geelong Port in Nepal. From there it will take another 160 km of road transport to reach Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. Altogether, the combined transport takes 35 days fewer than traditional ocean transport, the report said.

The combined rail and road service has been started as a follow up to Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s visit to Beijing in March during which the two countries signed the landmark transit treaty for Nepal to access supplies from China through the arduous route of Tibet.

Chinese officials said Beijing has also agreed to extend the rail link in Xigaze to Nepal border, which will enable Kathmandu to access growing rail and road infrastructure in Tibet.

The Oli government was keen on opening up new routes with China including access to its port Guangzhou to reduce dependence on India in the aftermath of the blockade along the Indian border imposed by Madhesis in Nepal to express their resentment against the new constitution, analysts say

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