CHINA NEPAL RAIL LINK UNDER MOUNT EVEREST
By Brigadier Chitranjan Sawant,VSM
The China-Tibet rail line may be extended to Kathmandu, capital of Nepal by 2020, so say world reports. Some Tibetan and non-Tibetan activists say that the proposed extension of rail line may cause a security concern for free world – a phrase of euphemism denoting anti-Communist front. It is said that the proposed rail link has raised hackles in India too.
Judging it independently, I find that there is no cause of concern now because Beijing and Kathmandu are friendly capitals and if they wish to increase free and inexpensive movements between the two countries, why should so called activists call the rail proposal questionable.
India too need not be unduly alarmed by this. However, if a new rail line connection between Beijing and Islamabad was proposed, military strategists would sit back and take stock of the changed situation.
Environmentalists, however, have a cause of concern. The Himalayas are rather fragile as they are younger than hardened rocks of Vindhyachal in central India, Gurla Mandhata in Tibet and other rocky mountains. So, too much digging and tunneling may cause earthquakes, landslides, floods and what have you. Let us try to not disturb the present Ecology of the Himalayas for the sake of economic development. Man must play safe.
The project, if it takes off now may be completed by 2020. Indeed expenditure will be much more than what one may calculate now. Nevertheless China with a booming economy may be able to afford it. China may view it from the angle of international strategy. As it is the Nepalese markets, be it in the capital city Kathmandu or the western Nepal resort Pokhara, are flooded with goods made in China. These look elegant with an attractive colour scheme and reasonably priced so that common man may afford to buy for the entire family. Never mind if the vibrant colours contain led and when infants or children lick their toys, the colours cause infections of sorts. In any case Asian countries do not pay much attention to personal health and hygiene as the Europeans do.
It is also said that the Chinese economists have their eyes on a much bigger market, that is India for selling their goods as still cheaper rates when the transportation cost will be cut tremendously, thanks to the Kathmandu rail link. In any case, the Indian markets from north to south and east to west display Chinese merchandise of sorts to sell to gullible simple village folks and uneducated labour class from urban areas.
The strategic affairs experts, except the panic stricken ones, do not give a damn to the proposed railway line because the Kathmandu rail link does not alter the present strategic scenario materially. In any case the PLA or People’s Liberation Army has its big cantonment named BA YI near Tibet-India border. They are in a dominant situation as the men and material just roll down from greater heights to lower hills whereas the Indian Army men and material have to climb up from almost plains level of Tezpur in Assam to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh and beyond to borders like Thagla ridge, Namchu and what have you.
What about the Central sector of UP-Tibet border? Wont Kathmandu rail link give the Chinese Army an additional advantage in transporting men and material to the battle field? The simple answer is that China of Today and Tomorrow is not at all interested in a border skirmish or military engagement with neighbouring India as it would attract world attention and paint an up coming world power like China in bad light. China, with its growing economic strength and military power proposes to take on the United States of America, a world power, and not waste time and energy on a regional entanglement.
The modern Chinese defence forces still cling to age-old strategy as enunciated in the ancient Chinese war text named Art of War by Suntzu wherein the sage-philosopher-cum strategist made it abundantly clear that it was not necessary to go to war to annihilate an enemy. The Chinese State must create a difficult military situation for the emerging enemy forces and weaken their Will to fight to such an extent that they are unable to muster courage to come to the battle field to engage the Chinese in a shooting war. Thus the Chinese Army will vanquish the enemy forces and achieve its desired aim without going to war. The present day PLA and the Chinese State are just doing that by surrounding India with a Pearl Necklace where each pearl or a country is favourably disposed towards China and cares not for India.
Right from Nepal to Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, not counting small fries, the Chinese men, material and money have made heavy inroads just to browbeat India and not engage in a shooting war. India may not be frightened as new allies like Japan, Vietnam, the Philipines, not forgetting USA are with India in thwarting diabolic designs of China. The strategic situation as of now is just even and one may call it quits, notwithstanding the new rail link between China and Nepal.
As mentioned before the Ecology of the Himalayan region is fragile and may be damaged beyond repairs if too much digging for tunnel is done under the peaks of Mount Everest. As per present plan of the Chinese railway engineers the tunnel may be quite long. Yet the ventilation is likely to be of the desired level so that passengers in the train have no problem of breathing. The new rail link between Lhasa and Kathmandu will be 540 Km long and the elevation will be taken care of so that there is no mishap during running of passenger and freight trains. The train is likely to have a maximum speed of 120 Km per hour. The State run China Daily has reported that the gigantic and ambitious project is being undertaken at the request of Nepal.
When completed the Lhasa – Kathmandu rail line will be a feat of Chinese engineering worth emulating by both the developed and developing countries.
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