Khatmandu: China is proposing to extend the Qinghai-Tibet Railway network right next to Nepal border with a long-term vision to enhance connectivity between the two countries.
China has begun a feasibility study to expand its rail network further 540 km from Shigatse to Jilong (near Kerung) and Yadong towns near Nepal and India border respectively, according to an official of the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR).
During a meeting with visiting Nepali and Indian journalists in Lhasa a few weeks ago, Ji Guogang, director of TAR for development and reform commission, said that the works on railway expansion to the towns would begin once the feasibility study is completed.
Kerung is less than 35km from bordering Rasuwa district, while Yadong 100km from Gangtok, the capital of Indian state of Sikkim. Kathmandu is around 100km away from Rasuwa.
Tibet has the lowest density of railway network in China. But TAR officials are keen to change it for the better.
“TAR has been important channel for China-Nepal interaction. Therefore, connectivity of highway, railway and aviation are important aspects of bilateral relationship between China and Nepal,” Guogang said in the presence of other senior officials of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) TAR committee, including Wu Yinggjie, the first deputy secretary of the committee.
As China prepares to expand railway network to Jilong, the Nepal government has also unveiled a plan to develop the Jilong port as an alternative trade route.
During the budget presentation last week, Finance Minister Ram Sharan Mahat said the government has put promotion the Jilong inland port as an alternative route for Nepal China trade.
The TAR official said that the railway network could be extended to Kathmandu, even to Lumbini based on the willingness of the two governments.
China has agreed in principle to extend the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to Nepal border and its extension inside Nepali territory has become subject of bilateral discussions on many occasions.
The Press Trust of India reported on July 2 that China had proposed a trilateral economic corridor with India through Nepal and a railway line linking the three nations via Tibet.
The news agency has quoted Huang Xilian, deputy director general of the Asian Affairs Department of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, as saying that the India-Nepal-China Corridor is a major initiative to promote the connectivity in the region especially between China and India and help quake-hit Nepal.
Experts say China wanted to link up with India and other South Asian countries through this border post. The 265-km long road linking Rasuwa-Trishuli-Raxaul is the shortest route over land between India and China. The Chinese leadership has also pledged to construct an alternative cargo route alongside Arniko highway.
Connectivity of highway, railway and aviation between Tibet and Nepal are critical aspects for bilateral relationship between China and Nepal, the TAR officials said, adding that the railway network expansion is taking place as the long-term railway plan of the central government of China.
Responding to a pointed question if the railway network will reach upto Kathmandu, Guogang said: “Chairman Mao [Mao Zedong] already said that the railway network should be connected to Kathmandu.
I believe your wish will come true.”
Construction works on the railway link connecting Lasha to Nyingchi are under way, Chinese officials said. Nyingchi is a Chinese prefecture close to Indian state of Arunachal.