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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Bring Tibet rail to Nepal, Kathmandu tells Beijing

December 4, 2007

Pranab Dhal Samanta
The Indian Express
Monday, December 03, 2007

While India struggled last week to allay Nepalese concerns over a
proposed highway along the Indo-Nepal border amid outrage over a
Nepalese parliamentary committee report, China has had a pleasant
experience with Kathmandu formally requesting Beijing to extend the
well-known Tibet rail into Nepal.

Having firmed up an agreement to resume the Kathmandu-Lhasa bus service
from January next year, Nepal Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan is learnt
to have formally requested a high-level Chinese delegation headed by
Wang Jiarui, head of the international liaison department of the
Communist Party of China’s Central Committee, that Nepal would welcome
speedy consideration of extending the Tibet rail into Nepal.

While China has indicated in the past that it could consider extending
the Tibet rail into Nepal, sources said the Nepalese government had not
identified this as a major priority initiative. More so, at that time,
the rail to Tibet was still to be completed. But Pradhan has given fresh
impetus to this on grounds that there should be greater connectivity
between Nepal and China.

While India does feel that such a project would pose a major technical
challenge given the tough terrain bordering China, there is grudging
acceptance of the fact that Kathmandu is keen on creating a viable
“China option” to reduce dependence on India. Already, the two sides
have agreed to widen the single-lane Kathmandu-Lhasa road.

Nepal has also stepped up diplomatic efforts in pushing for oil supplies
from its northern neighbour. Fuel requirements and geographical
accessibility are the key aspects that define the extent of Nepal’s
practical dependence on India.

India, on its part, is “bewildered” by the sudden outcry in Kathmandu’s
political circles in the past week about a proposed highway along the
India-Nepal border. Fears are being raised of encroachment and possible
inundation on the Nepalese sided as the road may be elevated at most
places. New Delhi is yet to conduct a proper feasibility study of this
project and feels it’s premature to have these concerns.

Despite the fact that India is committed to build some 1400 km of roads
within Nepal, Pradhan conveyed Nepal’s concerns to Indian Ambassador
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee who was surprised by the row the proposed Indian
project has caused.

While India battles this opposition, Pradhan’s warm attitude towards the
Chinese has New Delhi a bit concerned though the overall approach is one
of keeping the peace process alive and take up these matters with an
elected government at the end of the political process.

On a political level, sources said, Wang’s visit was aimed at building
stronger ties with Nepalese political parties, particularly the Maoists.
Beijing had always maintained a strong relationship with the palace and
the Nepal monarch, which is why it seemed to have lesser political
influence once the political parties grew in stature. This also held
true with the Maoists. But on the face of it, China seems to be moving
quickly to gain “lost ground”.
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