China-Nepal rail link can be extended to India

Beijing: As China plans to extend its Tibet railway network to Nepal, Chinese experts say the USD four billion project passing through seismic zones in the Himalayas could be extended to India to improve Tibet’s connectivity with South Asia.

“Building the rail line may encounter many difficulties as it will pass the seismic zone and the Himalayan Mountains. However, given the current technologies, it will not be a big problem,” Wang Dehua, director of the Institute for Southern and Central Asian Studies at the Shanghai Municipal Centre for International Studies said.

At least USD four billion is needed for the project and is expected to be completed within five years, Wang told state- run Global Times.

“The rail link could be a very good opportunity for the country to connect to India and would enhance bilateral relations,” he added.

The Nepalese Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli in his meeting with Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Monday has asked for Chinese help to build a monorail in Kathmandu and a railway line from the Tibetan border town Gyirong to Lumbini, the birthplace of Buddha, Oli’s foreign affairs advisor, Gopal Khanal has been quoted as saying by Japan’s Kyodo news agency.

“The two sides have also agreed on building railways in Nepal,” he said.
Hou Yanqi, deputy head of the Chinese foreign ministry’s Asia Division, told the media after Li-Oli meeting that the government would encourage Chinese firms to look at the internal rail plan to extend the rail network to Nepal.

China was already planning to extend the railway from the Tibetan city of Xigaze to Gyirong on the Nepali border, she said.

Zhao Gancheng, director of South Asia Studies at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies told Global Times that the railway may lessen Nepal’s dependence on India but does not mean that China is trying to compete with India for influence on Nepal.

After Oli-Li meeting the two countries signed 10 agreements including the transit treaty which would provide an additional avenue for land-locked Nepal for import and export of materials which are currently conducted through Kolkata port.