China’s PLA has been strengthening its logistics in Tibet after Doklam and the feverish pace of projects indicates military implications for India.
New Delhi: A year after its stand-off in Doklam with India, China has redoubled its effort to strengthen its road and rail infrastructure across the difficult terrain of Tibet, and is now focussing on connecting the strategic cities of Lhasa and Tsetang.
China’s logistics and supply chain was put to the test during the 72-day-long face-off at Doklam, pushing the People’s Liberation Army to focus on three road and rail axes from Lhasa — to Kashgar, Xining and Chengdu.
The projects are being executed at a feverish pace, and the redundancy being created in infrastructure indicates military implications for New Delhi.
The road to Tsetang
The eastern axis from Lhasa to Chengdu passes through Nyingchi, one of the main cantonment towns opposite the Tuting sector in Arunachal Pradesh. The Lhasa-Nyingchi stretch has double road connectivity — a northern highway completed earlier this year, and another southern road that runs alongside the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra) river.
Tsetang is a major military town in southern Tibet — any activity towards Tsona (Cona) town opposite the Tawang sector in India has to pass through this important Chinese cantonment. But so far the only way across the mountains from Lhasa to Shannan is a circuitous chunk of the southern road mentioned above.
Sometime at the end of 2017, China decided to construct a direct road from Lhasa to Tsetang.
Satellite imagery accessed by ThePrint indicates a 75 km-long four-lane road is being built from Dagze in Lhasa to Tsetang via Samye town, and then along the Yarlung Tsangpo’s northern shore.
The road will cut the distance between the two cities to less than half, and travelling time to just one hour from three.
The road cuts across the mountain range with huge twin tunnels almost 12 km long. The width of each tunnel is 12.5m, indicating an inner diameter of 10m.
Railway to Tsetang & beyond
A Lhasa-Tsetang railway line is also under construction, extending up to Nyingchi. The infrastructure is almost complete, and the railway line is being laid.
A new tunnel, about 4.5 km long, is being constructed through Mount Gala. A railway bridge about 5 km long has also been constructed over the Yarlung Tsangpo.
New railway stations are being constructed all along the route at Gonggar, Dranang, Tsetang and Nyingchi. The Nyingchi station is also likely to have sidings for loading and unloading.
New road bridge
A new bridge has been constructed east of Dranang railway station, connecting the roads passing north and south of the river
The bridge is 5 km long and possibly constructed as an alternate to Gonggar bridge, considering a possible hostile situation.