A team of high-level Chinese officials and experts recently completed a land inspection trip in Nepal for the construction of a China-Nepal railway.
The team of 23 was led by Zheng Jian, deputy director of National Railway Administration of China, who met with the Nepali Ministry of Physical Infrastructure and Transport on November 10, after completing field trips to Gyirong, Pokhara and Lumbini.
According to the Kathmandu Post, Nepali Department of Railways spokesperson Prakash Bhakta Upadhayaya said that the Chinese team resolved many technical issues, especially geological ones.
"Altitude variation between Syaprubeshi and Gyirong and the gap created between Indian and Tibetan tectonic plates after the 2015 earthquake were major concerns. This Chinese team of experts has cleared out our concerns, paving way for development of railroads in the country," Upadhayaya told the Kathmandu Post.
He said that the Chinese team has assured the technical support required for this project. Nepal and China have also agreed to expedite cooperation in the field of cross-border railway connectivity.
Long in the making
Sun Lizhou, an international relations expert from Tsinghua University, has followed the progress of the project closely. He told the Global Times that time varies from project to project, from the moment an inspection team is sent out until construction begins.
The development of projects between China and Nepal has been affected by geopolitics.
Over the years, China and Nepal have held several rounds of talks, both formal and informal, about possible cross-border railways, especially under the Belt and Road initiative.
In 2006, Qiangba Puncog, the then-chairman of the government of China's Tibet Autonomous Region, told Sharma Oli, who was then deputy prime minister of Nepal, that the Qinghai-Tibet railway would be extended from Lhasa to Xigaze, Tibet Autonomous Region and then to the Sino-Nepalese border.
In March 2016, the Nepali prime minister signed 10 agreements with China during the Boao Forum for Asia, including plans to establish railways between the two countries.
In May 2017, during a bilateral meeting in Beijing, Chinese Vice Premier Wang Yang told Nepal's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Krishna Bahadur Mahara that China was willing to push for the steady development of basic infrastructure projects between the two countries, such as road and railway construction.
There were further meetings between China and Nepal in September of this year, when Mahara held a bilateral delegation-level meeting with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi while visiting Beijing.
Soon after this year's 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, a high-level Chinese delegation was dispatched to Nepal to carry out an inspection of the technical feasibility of the railway.
China's National Railway Administration said that, in Nepal, China has made developing the cross-border railway "a high priority," according to Xinhua News Agency.
On the Chinese side, the extension of the railway from Xigaze in Tibet to the China-Nepal border port of Gyirong is being carried out and will be completed by 2020.
The railway is part of China's greater plan to connect neighboring countries with roads and railways in every direction. Foreign media outlets have commented that China is executing "railway diplomacy."
Toward the West, there are three China-Europe cargo train rails, two rails between China and Kazakhstan and discussions of a railway project connecting China, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Iran.
To the South, the China-Laos railway is expected to be finished by the end of 2020, and Thailand has recently approved a China-Thailand rail to begin construction this year.
By Zhang Yiqian Source: Global Times