(TibetanReview.net, Feb13’23) – All the 55 counties and districts in western half of Tibet which China has demarcated as Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) will be eventually connected by railway transport services, which will also traverse India-claimed Aksai Chin, according to China’s official chinadaily.com.cn and bharattimes.co.in Feb 13.
The “medium-to-long-term railway plan” for TAR, which was made public last week, envisages expanding the region’s rail network from the current 1,400 km to 4,000 km by 2025, including new routes that will connect India and will walk till the borders of Chinese ruled Tibet with Nepal.
The bharattimes.co.in report called the Xinjiang-Tibet Railway, which will roughly follow the route of the G219 national highway, as the most ambitious. It noted that the construction of the Xinjiang-Tibet Highway through Aksai Chin had created tensions between India and China in the lead-up to the 1962 war.
The proposed railway would start at Shigatse in southern Tibet, and run northwest along the Nepal border, before cutting north through Aksai Chin and terminating at Hotan in Xinjiang.
The planned route will pass through Rutog and around Pangong Lake on the Chinese-ruled Tibet side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The first section, from Shigatse to Pakhuktso, will be completed by 2025, with the rest of the line, to Hotan, expected to be finished by 2035.
Citing Chinese state media, the report said that by 2025, construction of a number of railway projects, including the Yan’an-Nyingchi section of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway, the Shigatse-Pakhuktso section of the Xinjiang-Tibet Railway, and the Bomi- Ranwu Lake section of the Yunnan-Tibet Railway will all see major progress.
The rail network plan for the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-25) period and beyond released last week by the region’s Development and Reform Commission, also envisages that border railway lines will be built to Gyrong (Kyirong), a land port on the Nepal-Tibet border, and Yadong County in the Chumbi Valley, which borders India’s Sikkim and Bhutan.
The report noted that China’s railway construction in occupied Tibet is seen as serving two purposes: boosting border security by enabling it to more closely integrate border regions as well as enable rapid border mobilization when needed; and second, to accelerate the economic integration of Tibet with the hinterland.