NEW DELHI: China recently started work on extending its rail link in Lhasa to its border with Nepal, but for India it might just be a red herring. In a development, which has alarmed officials and strategic community here, Beijing is simultaneously working on bringing its rail link right upto Nyangtri -- located on the border with Arunachal Pradesh and an area that China claims as its own, reports Times of India.
Nyangtri is also the site where the Brahmaputra is proposed to be diverted northwards by the Chinese. The Chinese claim that the Nyangtri or Nyingchi prefecture includes some parts of Arunachal Pradesh. China proposes to build the largest dam in the world at this spot.
While the line to Xigaze near Tibet's border with Nepal will extend south-west from Lhasa, the line to Nyangtri will extend towards Arunachal in the south-east. China proposes to build as many as six big dams in the region on the Brahmaputra in addition to a dozen or so it has already constructed. "There is no real evidence till now that Brahmaputra waters have been diverted northwards by China, but the massive infrastructure build up at Nyangtri, including this rail link which they are working on, near the Great Bend doesn't inspire confidence," said an Indian government official.
The Great Bend is the place, where the Brahmaputra takes a decisive turn and flows towards India. Strategic affairs expert Brahma Chellaney describes the rail link to Nyangtri as a significant new development. "The building of the railway to this area is significant because of two reasons: China has unveiled plans to construct there the world's largest dam which will be more than twice bigger than Three Gorges Dam, now the world's largest dam, and also because it will strengthen China's rapid military deployment capability in the eastern (Arunachal) sector," said Chellaney, adding that China is in a position to rapidly move forces and strike at India whenever it wants to.
China's focus on expanding its railway south of Lhasa is alarming also because of reports that for the first time earlier this year "combat readiness material" meant for the PLA air force was transported to the region through the Tibet rail link. The PLA Daily recently reported that China conducted its first major parachute exercise in Tibet to demonstrate its capability to rapidly send troops on the world's highest plateau.