Monday, April 19, 2021

China plans to help build a ‘passageway’ between Tibet and South Asia

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China is planning to build a “passageway” connecting Tibet to South Asia, according to a draft outline of the 14th Five-year plan (FYP) unveiled on Friday.

A brief report published by Xinhua says the central government will support the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to build the passageway.

The 14th FYP is part of China’s long-range objectives that it envisages until 2035.

“China’s Tibet Autonomous Region will be supported to build an important passageway opening to South Asia, according to the draft outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025) for national economic and social development and the long-range objectives through the year 2035, which was unveiled on Friday,” the news agency reported on Friday.

The report was published as the annual session of China’s parliament, the National People’s Congress (NPC), began in Beijing on Friday.

Details of where exactly the “passageway” would be built and which South Asian country it would be connected to were not shared.

The same FYP draft also talks about China participating in the “…pragmatic cooperation on the Arctic and the building of a Polar Silk Road, according to the draft outline of the 14th Five-Year Plan (2021-2025)”.

The draft outline of the 14th FYP has been submitted to the NPC for formal approval.

China shares land boundaries with India, Nepal, and Bhutan in South Asia.

China for long has planned to build the trans-Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity project, in an effort to join the dots between Tibet and Nepal.

In 2019, Beijing and Kathmandu signed a protocol to operationalise a 2016 Transit Transport Treaty, providing landlocked Nepal to Chinese seaports for foreign trade.

The not-very-tacit understanding between the two countries could have been to reduce Nepal’s dependence on India.

In 2019, Himalayan multi-dimensional connectivity network including the Nepal-China cross-border railway have been named under the list of projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), China’s trans-continental connectivity project.

The naming of the bilateral projects with Nepal coincided with Beijing dropping the BCIM or the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Corridor from the BRI project list.

In 2020, state-run China Daily reported that preparatory work was underway for a cross-border railway connecting Tibet and Kathmandu.

China’s marked interest in South Asia was evident last November when Beijing hosted a high-level virtual meeting with Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka to build “political consensus” in containing the Covid-19 pandemic and boosting economic development.

The meeting of “five parties”, as termed by the Chinese foreign ministry, was an expansion of a similar meeting held in 2019 involving Pakistan, Nepal and Afghanistan, and hosted by foreign minister Wang Yi.

The November meeting was hosted by Chinese vice foreign minister Luo Zhaohui, China’s former ambassador to India.

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