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‘China extending Tibet rail link to Sikkim’

New Delhi: In what could be a matter of concern for India, reports on Monday claimed that China is planning to extend its Tibet railway network, stretching it to the strategically important Chumbi valley area, next to Sikkim and the Siliguri corridor.

As per a report published in a leading daily, the Chinese Railways Ministry had last month unveiled a map confirming the development and long-term railway network plan.

The release of map by the Chinese Railways Ministry has now ended all speculation in this regard and officially confirmed that China will be extending its railway network from Lhasa to Zangmu on the Nepal border, which is going to eventually extend into Nepal and even Kathmandu.

As per the plan, another line will branch out midway from this link to Zangmu, at a place called Shigatse. This line will move east and go right up to Yadong, on the mouth of the Chumbi Valley. This town is connected to Sikkim through the Nathu La pass and is strategically located on the tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.

The region adjoining Yadong is still disputed between China and Bhutan and some portion of it also witnessed military conflict in 1962 as part of New Delhi’s effort to defend Nathu La.

The Chinese side has not yet started the construction work but it has launched feasibility studies concerning the project. This project is slated for completion by 2017, bringing the Tibet railway just 500 km short of the Siliguri corridor. This may raise demands from Bangladesh to provide connectivity to the Chinese market via India.

What is of major concern to India is that New Delhi is finding it difficult to match pace with China’s ability to increase its railway network and registering its heavy presence in the region, which would ultimately benefit its industries and markets.

As per reports, China last year built over 10,000 km of high speed railway, and in the past five years has added 70,000 km railway lines. India, on the other hand, has struggled to connect Bhutan to India by rail.

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