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Officials discuss extension of Tibet railway into India and Nepal

March 21, 2016

By Ananth Krishnan

India Today, March 21, 2016 - In a development that experts say has significant ramifications for India, the Prime Ministers of Nepal and China on Monday for the first time discussed a cross border railway project, involving extending China's Tibet railway into Nepal.

Chinese officials told India Today in Beijing that the project was raised by Nepal Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli during talks with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang at the Great Hall of the People in the Chinese capital on Monday morning.

China responded "positively", the officials said, and that the two sides had agreed to take forward a feasibility study "at an early date".

"Prime Minister Oli raised proposals of two kinds of railways," Hou Yanqi, Deputy Director General in the Chinese Foreign Ministry's Asia Department, told India Today. "The first is projects [within the territory] of Nepal connecting cities in Nepal, and the second is a cross border railway," she said.

Hou said the Nepal PM had "raised the issue of building a cross border railway between China and Nepal" and that the proposal "has got a positive response from the Chinese side and the two sides have agreed to conduct feasibility study at an early date."

Hou said China was already in the process of extending a line to the Nepal border, to Gyirong in Tibet, from Xigaze. The line from Lhasa to Xigaze was completed in 2014.

"As for the cross border railway, China is already building a railway to Gyirong so this could be further extended," Hou said.

On Monday, both sides also signed a landmark transit transport agreement. This will end Nepal's dependence on India for access to ports, a key requirement for the landlocked country.

The transit agreement was among 10 deals signed on Monday, including Chinese support for developing Nepal's oil and gas resources through conducting surveys, solar power projects, a joint feasibility study for a first Free Trade Agreement and concessional loans.

Nepal officials say they are seeking greater support from China especially in the energy sector, with the blockade on the India border leading to dire energy shortages.

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