"Sky rail to run from Lhasa to South Tibet," state-run Global Times said in a front page report today, highlighting China's claims over Arunachal Pradesh with observations from Chinese analysts that the new rail network along the disputed border could act as a "bargaining chip" in the boundary negotiations with India.
The rail line connecting Tibet's provincial capital Lhasa with Xigaze close to the Indian border in Sikkim as well as Nepal and Bhutan which is currently under trials would become operational next month, the report said. Another railway line linking Lhasa to Nyingchi in the east is also expected to start construction soon, it said. Nyingchi is located right on top of Arunachal Pradesh, the nearest area to the border. The railway expansion will connect, Nepal, Bhutan and India by 2020, the report said.
Yang Yulin, deputy director of the railway office of Tibet said during the 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-2020) period, the construction of a railway connecting Shigatse with Gyirong county (close to Nepal), which has a checkpoint connecting Nepal and Yatung county (close to Indian border near Sikkim and Bhutan), a trade centre bordering India and Bhutan, will start.
The rail link between Lhasa and Shigatse, the home of pro-Beijing Panchan Lama, stated to be second important Monk in Tibetan hierarchy is an extension of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway that runs from Xining, Qinghai Province to Lhasa.
It will include 13 stations with altitudes ranging from 3,600 to 4,000 metres. The trains are expected to run on the extension line at a speed of 120 kilometres per hour. It is the largest infrastructure project during the 12th Five-Year Plan (2011-2015) with an investment of more than 10.8 billion yuan (USD 1.7 billion), Yang said.
Significantly, the Global Times, the ruling Communist Party of China-run tabloid which often strikes nationalistic postures highlighted Beijing's claims over the area in the write up on the new rail network close to the Indian borders. "According to the Chinese foreign ministry, there are a total of 125,000 square km of disputed area between China and India, of which, 90,000 square km are in the South Tibet region, known as 'Arunachal Pradesh' in India," the report said.