China opens strategic highway to Nepal. China has opened a highway in Tibet to the Nepal

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China has opened a highway in Tibet to the Nepal border that runs parallel with the Xigaze-Lhasa railway that hs the potential to be used for military purposes

Beijing: China has opened a strategic highway in Tibet to the Nepal border which could be used for civilian and defence purposes. The 40.4-kilometre highway in Tibet between Xigaze airport and Xigaze city centre officially opened to the public on Friday with a short section linking the national highway to the Nepal border. The highway will shorten the journey from an hour to 30 minutes between the dual-use civil and military airport and Tibet's second-largest city. Geographically, any extension of the road and railway connectivity to South Asia is through India, Bhutan and to Bangladesh.

The G318 with Xigaze in the middle connects to Nepal on one end and other end links to Nyingchi, the Tibetan town close to Arunachal Pradesh border. The highway runs very close to the border, PTI reported. China has been stepping efforts to improve road connectivity between Tibet and Nepal while speeding up plans to build a railway line connecting to Nepal's border after KP Sharma Oli, pro-China former Nepalese Prime Minister, signed a Transit Trade Treaty with Beijing last year during his tenure.

Oli signed the treaty at the height of the Madhesi agitation and their blockade of Indian goods to provide a major opening for China to reduce the dependence of the landlocked country on India, even as the transportation of essentials through the Himalayan terrain of Tibet would entail heavy costs for Nepal. However, since the fall of Oli government, China's plans to speed up its efforts to make forays into Nepal through infrastructure expansion slowed down even though Kathmandu signed up for Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative in May this year.

The state-run Global Times quoted Zhao Gancheng, director of the Centre for Asia-Pacific Studies at the Shanghai Institute for International Studies as saying - "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."

On the other hand, Wei Qianggao, deputy head of the Tibet transportation department was quoted as saying - "The road is Tibet's first real highway. It is our gift toward the upcoming 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China. As an important traffic program in the 13th Five-Year Plan and a core section of the Tibet Autonomous Region's highway network, the road will benefit the export-oriented economy of Xigaze and the complex traffic around Lhasa."

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