New Delhi: As China prepares to welcome Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May, railway officials from both the countries have been busy trying to give shape to the mega railway agreements inked last year. Officials from both sides are also putting into place plans for inking of $10 billion worth of Chinese investment proposals during the visit.
Modi has been pushing for the development of Indian Railways as a key driver of the country’s economic growth and has invited global investments in the sector – from high-speed rail projects, upgradation of stations and railway lines to modernization of a network that ferries over 23 million passengers daily, half of whom are suburban travellers.
China, which has been making remarkable strides in high-speed railways, has been keen to cooperate with India in the sector.
A team from China is conducting a feasibility study for the 1,754-km Delhi-Chennai high-speed corridor. It is being conducted by the China Railway SIYUAN Survey and Design Group Co Ltd following a MoU signed with High Speed Rail Corporation of India Ltd.
“The study is in progress. As part of this, an Indian Railway team visited China and a Chinese delegation was in India,” Indian Railways spokesperson Anil Saxena told.
The proposed Delhi-Chennai high-speed train corridor, which would clock 300 km/hour, would be the world’s second-longest bullet train line after China’s 2,298 km-long Beijing-Guangzhou line, which was launched last year.
The Beijing-Guangzhou line takes eight hours to cover the distance while the Delhi-Chennai line, if it takes off, would take around six hours to cover the distance. Chinese envoy Le Yucheng, during a recent business meet, termed railway cooperation as the “brightest spot” in bilateral relations.
During Xi’s visit, both sides inked a MoU for raising the speed of the Chennai-Bangalore-Mysore section to 160 km per hour. China is currently doing a feasibility study on this.
China is to also impart training in heavy-haul systems for 100 Indian railway officials and help in the redevelopment of existing railway stations and establishment of a railway university in India. Work on these projects is on.
Work on setting up Chinese industrial parks in India, agreed last year, is also progressing. The parks are in Gujarat and in Chakane near Pune.
During his China visit, Modi is slated to visit Xi’an, the hometown of Chinese President Xi Jinping. The invite to visit Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi province, was made by Xi after his visit to Modi’s home state of Gujarat during his India visit last September. The Gujarat visit, especially the walk along the picturesque Sabarmati riverside by the two leaders, went a long way to build a rapport between them, an essential ingredient for cementing bilateral relations.
Xi’an is where the Buddhist monk Hiuen Tsang spent his last years after returning from India some 1,500 years ago.
Officials from both sides are working to put in place $10 billion worth of investment proposals likely to be inked during the visit. During the September visit of Xi, China had announced $20 billion worth investment in India over the next five years. Work on the investment proposals is in full swing and is expected to be completed ahead of schedule, officials said.
Modi is also slated to hold talks with top CEOs for furthering bilateral business and trade – a key feature of all his major diplomatic engagements.
A meeting with Chinese academicians is also expected to be on the cards as well as a visit to a Chinese university and educational institution.
The border talks could also get a new boost with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her visit to China in February, hinting at the possibility of some ‘out of the box’ ideas being thrown up.
India and China also held the 18th round of their Senior Representative level border talks, helmed by India’s National Security Adviser Ajit Kumar Doval and Chinese State Councillor Yang Jiechi on March 23.