China may build rail tunnel under Mount Everest, state media reports.
China is considering extending a railway line linking the country to Nepal via a tunnel under Mount Everest, according to Chinese state media.
The proposal is the latest in a series of ambitious rail schemes Beijing is reportedly examining. It comes amid scepticism about whether some of the projects will ever get off the ground and at a time of a growing Chinese presence in Nepal, which has caused some concern in rival regional power India.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway already links the rest of China with the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and beyond, and an extension running as far as the international border is already being planned “at Nepal’s request”, the China Daily quoted a railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering as saying.
The project is expected to be completed by 2020, the newspaper cited a Tibetan official as saying. Extending the line would potentially forge a crucial link between China and the huge markets of India. It was raised by the Chinese foreign minister, Wang Yi, on a visit to Kathmandu in December, according to Nepalese reports.
“The line will probably have to go through Qomolangma so that workers may have to dig some very long tunnels,” railway expert Wang Mengshu told the China Daily, referring to Mount Everest by its Tibetan name.
Owing to the challenging Himalayan terrain, with its remarkable changes in elevation, trains on any line to Kathmandu would probably have a maximum speed of 75mph (120km/h), he added.
Beijing’s increasing role has raised alarms in New Delhi that China, already closely allied to Pakistan, is forging closer economic ties with Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Nepal in a deliberate strategy to encircle India.
In an apparent counter-move, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged late last year that South Asia’s largest economy would fund a series of regional investments and free up its markets to its neighbours’ exporters.