Monday, April 13, 2015

A Tunnel under the Everest does not make sense

A tunnel under the Everest?
A few days ago, The Times of India reported that China was planning to build a 540-kilometre strategic high-speed rail linking Tibet and Nepal and passing through a tunnel under Mt Everest, adding that the move “could raise alarm in India about the Communist giant's growing influence in its neighbourhood.”
The Times of India quoted an article in the official The China Daily: "A proposed extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to the China-Nepal border through Tibet would boost bilateral trade and tourism as there is currently no rail line linking the two countries. The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma so that workers may have to dig some very long tunnels," a railway 'expert' called Wang Mengshu told The China Daily.
The Chomolungma (Qomolangma for the Chinese) is another name for Mount Everest.
The Times of India commented: “This is the first time a tunnel plan has been revealed because China had earlier discussed extending the Qinghai-Lhasa line to the Nepalese border without digging a tunnel.”
Strange news indeed!
I mentioned several times on this blog the opening of the new landport near Kyirong in Tibet. For centuries, it has been the traditional land route between Nepal and Tibet. In the recent years, China invested millions of dollars to prepare the opening this trade port with Nepal.
Kyirong new landport
In fact the article quoted by The Times of India mentions the opening of Kyirong, it is called Kurung in the article, which says: “A proposed extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway to the China-Nepal border would boost bilateral trade and tourism, experts said, as there is currently no rail line linking the two countries. If the proposal becomes reality, bilateral trade, especially in agricultural products, will get a strong boost, along with tourism and people-to people exchanges."
It quotes the same Wang Mengshu.
As reported here a few days ago, Lobsang Gyaltsen, the head of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s government told the Nepalese President Ram Baran Yadav during the latter’s visit to Lhasa that “China plans by 2020 to extend the railway by 540 kilometers to Kerung [Kyirong], the Chinese town nearest Nepal and a recently opened border trade port.”
President Yadav answered that he expected that a closer connectivity would generate more opportunities for both nations.
The China Daily clearly says: “In August, a 251-kilometer extension of the line was completed from Lhasa to Xigaze [Shigatse]. The new segment would extend from there to Kerung [Kyirong].
So, why to dig a tunnel below the Everest (located in Eastern Nepal) to bring a train in Western Nepal? It makes no sense.
The China Daily mentioned the rationale for opening Kyirong landport: “Chinese officials see even greater opportunities beyond the border.”
It also says that during Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s visit to Nepal in December 2015, Wang asked Kathmandu to conduct a feasibility study for extending the railway line all the way to Kathmandu …beyond.
‘Beyond’ means towards India.
Hu Shisheng, director of the Institute of South and Southeast Asian and Oceanian Studies at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, told The China Daily that “the line connecting Tibet to Nepal should add new momentum to the region's tourism and service sectors because the existing roads cannot satisfy demand for passenger and cargo transport. The bottleneck has resulted in sluggish trade growth.”
He clearly means through the Kyirong port.
Another Chinese article says: “The Qinghai-Tibet Railway will be extended by 540 kilometers from Shigatse to Gyirong (or Kerung), the nearest Chinese town bordered with Nepal by 2020. Losang Jamcan [Lobsang Gyaltsen], chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, said to Nepal's President Ram Baran Yadav during his visit to Lhasa on April 1.”
As mentioned on this blog, President Yadav attended the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province, where he met with President Xi Jinping: “China released the ‘Belt and Road’ plan, vowing to promote border trade, tourism and cultural cooperation between China’s Tibet Autonomous Region and China's neighboring countries, such as Nepal,” explained The China Daily.
As reported, Yadav said: “The Tibet Autonomous Region has played an important position in the Sino-Nepal relations. The interconnection of airlines, roads and ports between the TAR and Nepal has brought opportunities and mutual prosperity for both parties. I'm confident in the ongoing trade cooperation with Tibet."
President Yadav further asserted: “Nepal has long been expecting that a new Tibetan railway which would extend to the border areas to boost bilateral trade and tourism between the two countries.”
The National Highway 219 (Aksai Chi road)
The China Daily noted: “Nepal is an important transit point between China and South Asia, and a major chunk of the two countries' expanding trade has been conducted through Tibet. With this newly announced Xigaze [Shigatse] to Jilong [Kyirong] section of the railway in five years, better road and rail connections could be expected between Nepal and China.”
It is still a mystery how the tunnel under the Everest has come into the picture for a project located in Eastern Nepal.
Moreover, the Shigatse-Kyirong railway line makes sense as it could (and will) later be extended to Kashgar in Xinjiang by following the National Highway 219 (also known as the Aksai Chin road).
The ‘Everest scoop’ is probably a diversion from this far more strategic project.

1 comment:

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