(TibetanReview.net, May06’19) – Railways linking Kathmandu with India and Chinese ruled Tibet will begin within two years, reported the ANI news service May 4, citing President Ms Bidhya Devi Bhandari after her return from the 2nd Belt and Road Forum in Beijing followed by a visit to Tibet. However, there is still no information on which side will bear the huge cost of the railway link with Tibet.
“The Detailed Project Reports of Birgunj-Kathmandu and Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu railways, connecting Kathmandu to both India and China by railways, will be prepared and construction works will be started within two years,” Bhandari was quoted as saying, reading out the government’s priorities for coming years in parliament.
Regarding the Birgunj-Kathmandu line, the first trans-border railway between Nepal and India, it will be planned in the upcoming fiscal year, she has said.
Further, “railway service will be made operational within the next fiscal year at Jayanagar- Bijalpura and from Bathnaha, India to Biratnagar. The construction of the railway at Bijalpura-Bardibas segment will be completed,” she has added.
However, she has said next to nothing about the Rasuwagadhi-Kathmandu from the Tibetan side.
The report only cited the government of Nepal as saying the completion of technical studies for the construction of railways linking both the neighbouring countries had been completed in collaboration with the two concerned nations.
Amsterdam-based European Foundation for South Asian Studies (EFSAS) said early last month that China’s ambitious Belt and Road initiative (BRI) with Nepal may be a non-starter due to enormous technical as well as economic challenges that beset it unless Kathmandu is prepared to sacrifice strategic national interests to follow the well-trodden doomed path towards debt trap taken by Sri Lanka and Pakistan before it.
The railway project lies at the heart of China’s BRI in Nepal. It will be technically highly challenging with around 98.5% of it being bridges and tunnels. “On the other (hand), the question also arises whether the project, which could cost up to $7-8 billion, is financially attainable in light of Beijing’s legacy of building up debt in countries which go for the BRI,” it said.