India and China are competing for influence over Nepal but superior infrastructure in Tibet that borders the land-locked country can give Beijing the edge, the nationalist Global Times said on Thursday.
A top expert wrote in the state-controlled newspaper that China’s infrastructural superiority in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) will likely come under pressure from India’s high growth in the coming years.
That can only be tackled with policy support from Beijing and close coordination between its neighbouring provinces and cities, the newspaper said.
“In the next decade, if India continues on its high growth track and speeds up the development of infrastructure and manufacturing, this will impose multi-dimensional pressure on China, of which Tibet will bear the brunt,” Ding Gang from Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies at Renmin University of China wrote in the newspaper.
“Fortunately, as the central government has attached great importance and offered considerable support to the region, Tibet has gained the upper hand over India in terms of infrastructure development and has established sound economic cooperation relations with neighbouring provinces and cities,” Ding said.
Ding noted the slow but increasing competition between India and China over building railway networks in Nepal.
“During his latest visit to India, Nepal’s new Prime Minister Prachanda revealed that the two countries would discuss the possibility of India helping build a railway connecting Mechi and Mahakali,” Ding said.
From the Chinese side, he said, “Currently, China is extending the Lhasa-Shigatse (in TAR) railway to reach to Gyirong county. The project is expected to be completed in 2020. By this design, connection between Kathmandu and Gyirong through railways can be achieved by 2025 as the former is merely dozens of kilometers away from the latter.”
This competition from India can be offset by better coordination between Chinese provinces around TAR.
“How to further open up the autonomous region, exploit its advantages over India to deal with challenges and exercise an influence over the region while maintaining Tibet’s stability needs policy support. It also requires coordination among all western provinces, cities and autonomous regions,” Ding said.
Of course, there is opportunity for all three countries to coordinate for development. “Over 200 kilometers northeast of Bhairawa, a Nepali city close to the border with India, is Nepal’s capital Kathmandu. 100 kilometers northward from Kathmandu is Kodari, a border crossing from Nepal into China. The three cities make up one of the most important passageways connecting China and the Indian subcontinent,” Ding said.
The write added that on the other side of the border from Kodari is Zhangmu, a Chinese customs town and port of entry.
“The town accounts for around 82% of bilateral trade between China and Nepal and 90% of that between Tibet and Nepal. Despite terrible road conditions, on average, more than 200 trucks fully loaded with cargo head for Nepal from the town every day.”
India and Nepal are linked by comparatively good roads. For years, India has occupied 60 to 70% of Nepal’s total trade while China has only 10%, Ding said.