Military can use new China-Nepal highway, move likely to ‘irritate’ India
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Military can use new China-Nepal highway, move likely to ‘irritate’ India

The 25-metre wide highway can be used by armoured vehicles and serve as a runway for military aircraft, say experts.

world Updated: Sep 19, 2017 00:22 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
File photo of vehicles from a PLA artillery regiment conducting manoeuvres in the Tibet Autonomous Region in April 2016.(China Military Online)

A new strategic highway in Tibet will link the region to Nepal and can be used for military purposes, state media reported on Monday, adding the road can help open up South Asia to China .

Experts said the 25-metre wide highway can be used by armoured vehicles and serve as a runway for military aircraft if required.

India is likely to be “irritated” by the development, the state media reported.

“The Tibet highway between Xigaze airport and Xigaze city centre officially opened to the public on Friday, a short section linking the national highway to the Nepal border which experts said will enable China to forge a route into South Asia in both economic and defence terms,” the Global Times tabloid said in a report.

The 40.4-km highway will shorten the journey between the dual-use civil and military airport and Tibet's second-largest city from an hour to 30 minutes.

The highway is expected to be linked to the China-Nepal railway in future, experts said.

“As part of G318, the highway connects the border town of Zhangmu with Lhasa, the capital city of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region. It can link with the future cross-border Sino-Nepali railway,” said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.

The report added: “The Sino-Nepali railway was part of a deal struck by Nepal deputy Prime Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara when he visited China in early September. The railway includes two lines: one connecting three of Nepal's most important cities and two crossing the border between China and Nepal.”

Zhao said the railway line, which passes through the Chinese border town of Zhangmu and connects with routes in Nepal, will be the first rail link from China to enter South Asia.

Zhao told the newspaper: "Although the railway connection between China and Nepal is intended to boost regional development and not for military purposes, the move will still probably irritate India. India is always disgusted when neighbouring countries attempt to get closer to China.”

Mahara said earlier this month that Nepal is fully committed to pushing forward cooperation with China under the Belt and Road Initiative. He was in China for a six-day official visit earlier this month.

"We have already signed the memorandum of understanding on participating in the Belt and Road Initiative proposed by China," Mahara told official Xinhua news agency.

According to Xinhua, the total “highway mileage” in Tibet touched 80,000 km in 2016, an increase of 19,000 km since 2011.

First Published: Sep 18, 2017 17:06 IST