DHARAMSALA, July 25: China expects to complete the construction of two railway lines in Tibet that will extend to the border with India by 2020, state run Global Times reported July 24.
After completing the 14th track test on July 22, the 254 Km railway line linking Lhasa and Shigatse will be connected to Qinghai-Lhasa track and open to traffic next month.
It is the largest infrastructure project during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) with an investment of more than 10.8 billion yuan ($1.7 billion), the report quoted Yang Yulin, deputy director of the railway office of the Tibet government as saying.
Yang Yulin added that the railway line will be further extended during the 13th five year plan period (2016-2020) to Kyirong county, which has checkpoint connecting Nepal and with Yatung county, a trade centre bordering India and Bhutan.
The report also quoted experts as saying the projects would both economic and strategic importance.
“It will accelerate transportation of the mineral products, which could only be transmitted through highways that often risk being cut off during rainy seasons or see vehicle turnovers,” the report quoted Zhu Bin, a manager with a mineral company based in Lhasa as telling the official People’s Daily.
“The Indians have lately been working on adding infrastructure in the South Tibet region, in order to strengthen control,” Liu Zongyi, a scholar at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told Global Times, referring to Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as “South Tibet”.
“They have been sensitive to how the Chinese government moves in the southwestern area of Tibet,” he said, adding that “the bargaining chips will be increased on the Chinese side if people in the South Tibet region see better economic development in south western Tibet.”
China’s ambitious railway projects have alarmed its neighbouring countries, India in particular as it shares a 3500 Km long border with Tibet.
The Indian government last month announced that it would build 54 border posts in Arunachal Pradesh on top of the area’s 30 existing posts.