China is planning the construction of two railway lines in Tibet that will extend up to the border with India and are expected to be completed by 2020, State media reported on Thursday.
The railway lines will run from the town of Shigatse, which next month will be connected to the Qinghai-Tibet railway line that extends to Lhasa. Traffic on the 254 km Lhasa-Shigatse line, which began to be built in 2010, will commence next month.
A third railway line will be build to Gyirong, where there is a trade and border checkpoint connecting Tibet’s Yatung county and Nepal.
The projects, Chinese experts said, will have both economic and strategic dimensions.
“It will accelerate transportation of the mineral products, which could only be transmitted through highways that often risk being cut off during rainy seasons or see vehicle turnovers,” Zhu Bin, an official of a mineral company, told the official People’s Daily.
The party-run Global Times quoted experts as saying the projects would also have an impact on the boundary dispute with India.
“The Indians have lately been working on adding infrastructure in the South Tibet region, in order to strengthen control,” Liu Zongyi, a scholar at the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies, told the newspaper, referring to Arunachal Pradesh which China claims as “South Tibet”.
“They have been sensitive to how the Chinese government moves in the southwestern area of Tibet,” he said, adding that “the bargaining chips will be increased on the Chinese side if people in the South Tibet region see better economic development in southwestern Tibet.”
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