China has recently opened a new and strategic highway that connects Tibet to the Nepal border. According to Chinese media reports, this highway could prove beneficial for not just civilian use but also for defense purposes.
Inaugurated on Friday, the highway is 40.4 km-long and connects Tibet’s Xigaze airport and Xigaze city center, with a short section linking the national highway to Nepal border. This highway will benefit both the commoners as well as military since it will reduce the journey time from an hour to 30 minutes between Tibet’s second-largest city and the airport, which is used for both civilian as well as military flights. According to the local media reports the 25-meter-wide highway has been classified as a first-tier highway, with four double lanes.
Chinese newspaper Global Times quoted experts saying that the highway “will enable China to forge a route into South Asia in both economic and defense terms”. This highway also connects Tibet’s capital city of Lhasa with the border town Zhangmu, from where the future cross-border China-Nepal railway is proposed to constructed, said Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies.
The highway can be used by armored vehicles and as a runway for planes to take off when it has to serve a military purpose. Although the railway connection is intended to boost regional development and not for military purposes, the move will still probably irritate India.
China has been making serious efforts to improve road connectivity between Tibet and Nepal. In fact, after KP Sharma Oli, the pro-China former Nepalese prime minister, signed the Transit Trade Treaty with Beijing during his tenure in 2016, China is also fastening its effort to develop railway connectivity to Nepal border.
It has to be remembered that Oli had signed the treaty with China at the peak of the Madhesi agitation, during which they had also boycotted India-made goods. However, since the fall of Oli government, China is trying its level best to ramp up its effort to construct transit ways to the Nepal border with Kathmandu having signed up for Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative in May this year.