(TibetanReview.net, Sep14’23) – What India’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru did not foresee – and the fact that he also did not bother to define the border between the two countries – while recognizing Tibet as an autonomous region of China in a 1954 agreement with China continues to haunt new Delhi to no end. The latest is China’s ongoing project to construct a railway line to connect Xinjiang with Tibet, via Aksai Chin – all occupied territories – by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of the Communist Party of China.
The railway would multiply China’s military capability on India’s northern border, Colonel (Retired) Virendra Sahai Verma has warned Sep 13, speaking at a webinar organised by the New Delhi-based Institute of Chinese Studies of which he is an honorary fellow.
Speaking at the webinar titled ‘PLA Plan To Construct a Railway Line Along Aksai-Chin Road Linking Xinjiang with Tibet: Implications for Indian Security,’ Verma has said, “The People’s Republic of China has reportedly made a goal of becoming the number one military and economic power by the middle of this century.”
Aksai Chin, in eastern Ladakh, was occupied by China through the 1950s, with the country consolidating its position there in the aftermath of the 1962 Sino-Indian war. The sparsely populated region is of strategic importance for the military — as the construction of a railway line by China shows, noted theprint.in Sep 14.
Nehru had reportedly, famously dismissed Aksai Chin as a territory of no value. “It is a territory where not even a blade of grass grows, about 17,000 feet high. Ladakh is a useless uninhabitable land. Not a blade of grass grows there. We did not even know where it was”, Nehru was said to have quipped when the issue of its Chinese occupation, including with its building of a road there, was raised.
The line will reportedly run from Shigatse in Tibet, along the northwest borders of Nepal, before cutting across Aksai Chin to reach Hotan in Xinjiang. The first section of the line is expected to be completed by 2025 and the full line is expected to be completed by 2035, the report noted.
“It is a well-known fact that railways are the best mode for the mass mobilisation of troops, guns and tanks — hence, the importance of the railway line, besides the [Aksai Chin] road that has existed since 1955 or so,” Verma has said.