Cooperation in High Speed Rail hindered due to India’s security concerns: Chinese media reports

Beijing: India and China failed to reach an agreement on bilateral high-speed railway (HSR) cooperation during the recent strategic economic talks due to India’s “excessive” security concerns, the state media reported today.

The third round of India-China Strategic Economic Dialogue held here last month discussed the modernising of Indian railway tracks to run high speed trains but the two neighbours could not reach an agreement, an article in Global Times said.

It said: “Excessive Indian security concerns seem to undermine efforts between the two countries. “Opponents of such cooperation say that railway construction involves geographic surveys which can put Indian security information and data at risk,” it said.

“They also believe that the construction process will undoubtedly involve sites near controlled military areas and this could have security ramifications.”

Besides being costly, HSR also involved acquisition of huge land to lay special tracks which was not feasible in India, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission Montek Singh Ahluwalia who headed the Indian delegation had said.

As every kilometre of HSR track costs Rs 120 crore, India wanted China’s expertise to modernise the existing tracks.

The two sides agreed to pursue specific collaboration arrangements in heavy haul, station redevelopment and raising speed of existing trains in India.

The Global Times article, however, focussed on HSR.

India has been receiving Japanese help, but its slow progress indicates there is still a long way to go, the article said.

“An overly broad idea of what constitutes classified information will undermine basic economic and social activities. An easily detectable military establishment should check its own security safeguard measures, rather than use it as an excuse to reject a civilian project,” the article said.

“Taking a step back for a moment, if a site of high sensitivity is really involved, it would always be plausible to adjust the railway alignment and thus eliminate these concerns,” it said.

The article also touched upon the issues of Chinese investments in India.

“National security reviews, together with anti-monopoly reviews, form India’s review institutions on foreign investment. However, unlike security reviews in other nations, India’s version has not been implemented with proper laws or policies, which has led to unclear standards in reviewing FDI, especially when it comes to investment from China,” it said.

“This has been broadened to such an extent that investment from Chinese companies cannot use the automatic approval routes and always need to be subject to security reviews,” it said.

India wants China to step up FDI to balance the ballooning USD 35 billion deficit in bilateral trade.