Sun. Oct 10th, 2021

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For New Delhi, China’s bullet train could become a strategic concern.

3 min read

The new high-speed rail connection is part of China’s ambitious plan of expanding connectivity across TAR, especially along border areas with India. Nyingchi is located less than 50km from the border with Arunachal Pradesh.

Tibet’s first high-speed train service between provincial capital Lhasa and Nyingchi near the border with Arunachal Pradesh will be operational by the end of June, a top official from China railways said on Saturday.

The construction of the 435km-long high-speed train corridor, also the first electrified railroad in Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) linking the two cities, began in 2014, Lu Dongfu, chairperson of China State Railway Group Company and a deputy to the National People’s Congress (NPC), said on the sidelines of the ongoing annual session of China’s rubber-stamp parliament.

The new high-speed rail connection is part of China’s ambitious plan of expanding connectivity across TAR, especially along border areas with India. Nyingchi is located less than 50km from the border with Arunachal Pradesh.

China claims the entire Indian state as part of south Tibet and has been rapidly developing infrastructure in the remote area of Nyingchi, which, like the rest of TAR, is not accessible to foreign journalists and diplomats.

For example, China is building the Sichuan-Tibet railway’s Ya’an-Nyingchi section, which will be 1,011km in length and include 26 stations when completed — this will take Chinese railways right up to the disputed boundary with India.

Last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping identified the Ya’an-Nyingchi railway project as a major measure in facilitating the Communist Party of China’s general plan for governing Tibet in the new era, and stressed the project’s important role in safeguarding national unity, promoting ethnic solidarity and consolidating stability in border areas.

“The project would significantly contribute to the economic and social development of the western region, especially in Sichuan province and TAR,” Xi said in November.

The Sichuan-Tibet railway starts from Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, travels through Ya’an and enters Tibet via Qamdo, shortening the journey from Chengdu to Lhasa from 48 hours to 13 hours.

On Saturday, talking about the first high-speed network, Chinese railway official Lu Dongfu said the track-laying work was completed by the end of 2020.

“The railway has a designed speed of 160km per hour, according to its constructor Tibet Railway Construction Co., Ltd., a subsidiary of China State Railway Group,” official news agency Xinhua said in a report.

“China aims to extend the total length in operation (of high speed trains) to around 50,000km by 2025, up from 37,900km by the end of 2020,” Lu said.

The high-speed railway network will cover 98% of cities with over 500,000 residents, he added.

China’s self-developed Fuxing trains now operate at a speed range of 160kmph to 350kmph.

By the end of last year, 1,036 Fuxing or “electrical multiple units” (EMU) had run a total of 836 million km and carried 827 million passengers since 2007, when the first bullet train became operational.

Under a national blueprint, quoted by state media, China will extend the total length of its rail system to 200,000km and its high-speed rail system to 70,000km by 2035.

China is also planning to build a “passageway” connecting Tibet to south Asia, according to the draft outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (FYP) unveiled on Friday.

A brief report published by the official news agency Xinhua said the central government will support TAR to build the passageway. The 14th FYP is part of China’s long-range objectives it envisages until 2035.

China’s Tibet Autonomous Region will be supported to build an important passageway opening to South Asia, according to the draft outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for national economic and social development and the long-range objectives through the year 2035, which was unveiled Friday.

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