India’s rail plan : to boost ties with Nepal or counter China ?   


Nepal Foreign Affairs (KATHMANDU, 22 February 2017)  – India has announced its plan to connect Nepal’s capital Kathmandu to Indian capital Delhi and Kolkata, West Bengal’s major city through railway network.

This announcement was made by Indian Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu on 20 February in Kathmandu on the sidelines of ‘Nepal Infrastructure Summit 2017’. “We need to build the railway tracks connecting Kathmandu with Delhi and Kolkata as soon as possible,” Prabhu had said on the summit that concluded on 20 February.

Indian media has mentioned this announcement of connecting rail network to Nepal as India’s renewed attempt to boost bilateral ties.  ”This move is primarily aimed at enhancing the cross-border communication network among Kathmandu and the two Indian cities.” NDTV has reported.  (http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/india-keen-to-rail-link-katmandu-with-delhi-and-kolkata-1661603, retrieved on 22 February 2017)

The NDTV has further reported that the Indian move was a strategic step to overtly counter China’s calculated push into the landlocked Himalayan nation with rail and raid connectivity through Tibet. “If we could build these two railway tracks soon it would increase Nepal’s connectivity with India,” the Railway Minister had said.”I will give priority to building such networks soon.”

Though the Indian’s schema of linking rail connectivity to Nepal is  a welcome step to reorient bilateral relationship, it should not be in any way to counter China’s work of connecting rail to Nepali border in Rasuwa district. India seems much worried about the China’s construction of railway network that links Nepal and Tibet. China has been continuously building railway tracks from Shigatse to Gyirong, border to Nepal, which is an extension of Lhasa-Shigatse Railway measuring about 540 km. According to Chinese officials, the  construction of railway track will be completed by 2020.

Global Times has said that this rail line makes it possible to connect China to India as from Rasuwagadhi to Birgunj, which borders Bihar is only 240 km. For Bihar, trade with China through the rail link will be easier along this route than through Kolkata, saving time, cost and distance, the newspaper had said.

The plan that Indian Minister shared with Nepali Minister and Officials should aims to support the China’s plan of linking Nepal, India and China through rail instead of foiling what they call the Chinese influence in Nepal.

India must understand that Nepali people do not bear interference in the domestic affairs of sovereign Nepal. India and China should know that Nepal will not allow its territory to use against its any neighbours.

Therefore, India’s announcement of rail link to Nepal should be fully supported by  Nepal government. The question is – Will India really execute this plan ?

 

 

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