In a blow to China, Nepal approves railway project connecting Kathmandu to Raxaul in Bihar

New Delhi: Over the last few years, China is making consistent efforts, to build a railway line from Tibet to Kathmandu. But Nepal has accepted the Indian proposal. The Nepal government has approved the railway project to connect Kathmandu to Raxaul in Bihar and preparation of detailed project report has been ordered. The Nepal transport ministry also had communicated with India in this respect. If China had built a railway line from Tibet to Kathmandu, there were chances of this railway line being used in war times. Against this background, this is a major jolt for China.   


Two years ago, during the meeting of the BIMSTEC countries, a memorandum of understanding had been signed between India and Nepal for carrying out the viability survey for a line between Raxaul in India to Kathmandu in Nepal. But there were no developments on this front ever since. The India-Nepal relations were deteriorating during the tenure of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. The tension in these relations festered, in the eight months, after Nepal claimed rights on the Indian territory. But after the Chinese encroachment into Nepal was exposed and the atmosphere heated up against KP Sharma Oli, Nepal took the initiative to normalise relations with India.   

Chief of Indian intelligence agency, RAW, met Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. Indian Chief of Army Staff General Naravane was decorated with the Honorary General rank by Nepal. Recently, even the Indian Foreign Secretary visited Nepal. Indian Foreign Minister also is scheduled to visit Nepal in the near future. The report of sanction of the railway line from Raxaul to Kathmandu has been received against this background.   

Ruxauls town in Bihar is situated on the Nepal border at Birganj. The rail route will be vital as Raxaul is connected to Delhi and Kolkata with rail lines. The railway track will be passing through 42 kilometres of tunnels, out of the 136 kilometres of total length. This will be a broad-gauge track and the width of the track will 1676 mm, whereas, the Chinese proposal was for a standard gauge of 1453 mm. The responsibility of building this railway track has been assigned to Konkan Railway.   

Konkan railway had asked for permission to prepare the detailed project report, a few months ago. But this permission was granted after the relations between the two countries started normalising. Rabindra Nath Shrestha, Secretary with the Nepalese transport ministry, confirmed the report that the permission has been granted. China also was eager to create a rail network connecting the mountainous regions of Nepal with Kathmandu.

China had proposed a railway line from Kirong in Tibet to Kathmandu, in 2008, during the tenure of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal (Prachanda), for this purpose. In 2015, India had stopped supplies of essential commodities to Nepal, in view of the Madhesi agitation. Thereafter, Nepal had expressed interest in this railway track between Tibet and Nepal. Discussions were also held between the two countries for this railway track, but they proved futile. Now, Nepal has reduced the Chinese ambitions to dust by accepting the Indian proposal. It would have been a major security challenge for India if China had succeeded in building a railway track between Tibet and Kathmandu. China could have used this route during war times. China could have brought its military and equipment quickly to the Indian border. But as per analysts, this threat has now been averted. 

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