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China-Pak rail project alarms India

india Updated: Dec 04, 2009 01:41 IST
Presley Thomas
Presley Thomas
Hindustan Times
China-Pak rail project

Less than two kilometres away from the last village on India’s western border, Pakistan is building what is ostensibly a railway station with China’s help.

Located on an established trade route between India and Pakistan, it appears to be an innocuous structure. But given the region’s geo-political equations, experts are viewing it as an aggressive attempt by our northern neighbour to establish a foothold close to India’s western border — its first.

“It’s part of the larger Chinese plan for strategic domination,” said Dr Srikanth Kondapalli, a professor in Chinese studies at Jawaharlal Nehru University.

Border officials fear the building will double up as a surveillance facility for both the Chinese and the Pakistanis. If war ever breaks out, it will also help Pakistan move troops to the border more swiftly.

“First, the nexus between China and Pakistan consisted of military spare-parts supplies, then came partnerships for military supplies,” said Brig (retd) Gurmeet Kanwal, director of Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi. “Then, we learnt China clandestinely supplied 50 kg uranium to Pakistan. Now there is an infrastructure nexus.”

With China’s help, about two months ago, Pakistan began building this structure about 1.5 km away from the Indian border, said BSF officers manning the border in Rajasthan.

Among the sources of information are passengers on the Thar Express, a weekly train that makes the six-km journey from Munabao in Rajasthan, 250-kilometres west of Jodhpur, to Khokrapur in Pakistan.

“There is some construction activity along the railway line,” said Kalpesh Kumar, from Mirpur Khaas in Pakistan who came off the train last Saturday.

This is not China’s first attempt to establish a presence on India’s western front, said border officials. In June, it tried to convert a ramshackle structure into a proper building in Pakistani territory located in no-man’s land, i.e. within 150 metres of India’s border. Work stopped only after India opposed —the structure violated an agreement that forbids either India or Pakistan from building anything 150 metres within the international border.