Even as Indian defence mandarins are tethering to give a go-ahead to the construction of strategic railway lines at the Sino-Indian border, the dragon is working at a feverish pitch to get railway lines passing through Aksai Chin and landing right at India’s doorsteps.
When the Indian government is deliberating on the idea of who will finance the construction of 14 strategic railway lines in the inhospitable and inaccessible regions of Ladakh and North-east, China has started work on extending its railway line from Lhasa—the capital city of Tibet—to cities near the Sino-Indian border at a huge cost of about $10 billion. Slicing through the geographical barriers, the railway line will cut the time taken for Chinese troop mobilisation by half.
As per the intelligence gathered by the Indian armed forces, the two lines connecting Lhasa to Yatung (a major trading town just about 30 km from Sino-Indian border) and to Linzhi (about 70-80 km from the border) will be complete by 2017. Yatung is situated at the mouth of the Chumbi Valley and is connected to the Indian state of Sikkim via the Nathula Pass. “Work on two other proposed railway lines from Lhasa to Khasa near Nepal border and Kashghar in Aksai Chin will begin soon,” sources told The Sunday Standard. According to an expert, this development will further tilt the strategic advantage in China’s favour as it gets cozy with the communist government of the Himalayan Kingdom of Nepal and strengthen its foothold in Aksai Chin, a territory claimed by India as its own. The rail link to Khasa is likely to be aligned with the Friendship Highway from Shigatse to Khasa, and further till Kathmandu.
On the Indian side, the Ministry of Finance is struggling to shell out `80,000 crore to construct six high-priority strategic lines bordering China.
Coupled with this, China has been sprucing its Western, Eastern and Central highways. The 1,900-km-long Western Highway goes from Lhasa to Aksai Chin after running parallel to Nepal Border. The Central Highway from Golmud to Lhasa and the Eastern Highway from Kunming to Lhasa is also being upgraded to make the mobilisation faster.
“The completion of rail and road networks will help China in using a combination of air-road and rail network to transport troops and material from the interiors to the border areas at a faster pace, raising concerns for India,” sources added.
While the red tape is stalling the growth of infrastructure on Indian side, the Army has taken possible measures to counter the strategic leverage gained by China. “For us mobilising troops at a faster pace will be difficult owing to the sloppy infrastructure. Keeping this in view, we are bolstering our presence in the forward areas by taking our men towards the border,” said Indian Army officials.