(TibetanReview.net, Jul25, 2014) –After opening the Lhasa-Shigatse extension of the strategic Qinghai-Tibet Railway in Aug-Sep 2014, China will open further railway lines to Gyirong (Tibetan: Kyirong) near Nepal’s border and Yatung (or Dromo) near India’s border state of Sikkim as well as Bhutan’s border. Global Times, the international edition of the Chinese Communist Party’s party mouthpiece People’s Daily Jul 24 cited Yang Yulin, deputy director of the railway office of the Tibet Autonomous Region government, as saying the new constructions will be undertaken during China’s 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period.
Besides, another railway line linking Lhasa to Nyingchi (Tibetan: Nyingtri) in the east, located close to India’s border state of Arunachal Pradesh, claimed by China as South Tibet, will start construction soon, the report added.
Referring to the strategic importance of these projects, the report cited Ms Wang Chunhuan, professor at the Tibetan Academy of Social Sciences in Lhasa, as saying the network of railways will play the role of continental bridge in South Asia and promote economic and cultural exchanges. It also cited observers as saying the railway, apart from boosting economic development, will contribute to solving border disputes between China and India in the South Tibet region.
“The Indians have lately been working on adding infrastructure in the South Tibet region, in order to strengthen control,” Liu Zongyi, an expert of Indian studies with the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, was quoted as saying. “They have been sensitive to how the Chinese government moves in the southwestern area of Tibet.”
The report cited Liu as saying the bargaining chips will be increased on the Chinese side if people in the “South Tibet” region see better economic development in southwestern Tibet. He has added that the growing railway network will increase Chinese activities in this area, balancing Indian moves.