Kathmandu-Lhasa Rail Link can enhance China’s Influence in Nepal

Nepal signs rail, road link deals with China during Xi visit

KHATMANDU: Chinese President Xi Jinping’s two-day visit to Nepal has been a nasty wake-up call for India. It was the first visit by a Chinese President in 23 years and it sent out a clear signal: India cannot dictate terms to its smaller, landlocked neighbour, nor take it for granted. Displaying a willingness to play an expanded role in the region, Xi declared China would always support Nepal in safeguarding the nation’s “independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Two countries sign a preliminary pact on a long-awaited rail link connecting the Tibetan capital Lhasa to Nepal’s capital Kathmandu

China also promises help to upgrade the Arniko Highway linking Kathmandu with Tatopani transit point

Xi also pointedly promised China would “help Nepal realise its dream of becoming a land-linked country from a landlocked one.” Driving that point home, China and Nepal signed a feasibility-study agreement for a 70-km rail link connecting Kathmandu and Shigatse in Tibet where it would join an existing railway line to Lhasa. Also on the cards are improved road links and slashing travel time from Kathmandu to the Tibetan border from five hours to two. In addition, China earlier offered Nepal use of four ports for shipment of goods.

India hasn’t wanted to be left behind in the connectivity race and recently inaugurated a 69-km oil pipeline from Barauni in Bihar to Amlekhgunj that can carry two million tonnes of petroleum products annually. (Significantly, though, that project was first proposed in the 1990s). Also, construction’s underway on two rail links, one of which will eventually link Patna and Kathmandu.