China Completes Network of Bridges in Tibet for Railway Infrastructure Near Indian Border that Is Raising Dual-Use Concerns

On June 20, state-owned China Railway Guangzhou Engineering Bureau Group and Tibet Railway Construction Co. completed the last of 120 critical river bridgesalong southwestern Tibet’s Yarlung Tsangpo river, as part of the 435-km Lhasa-Nyingchi railway project.  The rail bridgeis situated in Tibet, 30 kilometers from the Indian border state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Indian experts are concerned that, once completed, the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway — the Tibetan section of the Sichuan-Tibet national railway project — will offer China transport capability near the border that has significant dual-use (military/civilian) potential.  The railway is expected to become operational in 2021 and represents just one of many Chinese efforts to promote investment and infrastructure development in remote locations near Tibet’s border with India, where uthorities have consistently complained of Chinese encroachments into Indian territory.

Approximately 75% of the Lhasa-Nyingchi railway is comprised of a network of bridges and tunnels.  Once completed, the structure will be Tibet’s first electric railway with a designed speed of 160 km per hour. The railway also connects to a number of other Chinese road and transport infrastructure projects in Tibet, which is emerging as a critical bridge for the expansion of Beijing’s influence in South Asia.  The role is perhaps most prominent in the physical connectivity being established through rail and road infrastructures.