By Shibayan Raha
The Gormo-Lhasa railway that links Tibet to China's capital Beijing is being promoted vigorously by the Chinese government as benefiting the Tibetan people but former president of People's Republic of China, Jiang Zemin had made it clear that the railway project - touted as an economic project - was in fact a political project necessitated by the need to consolidate permanently China's control over Tibet. From Jiang Zemin's statement that it was a political project dictated by political decision, it is clear that China's determination to construct the railway link to Lhasa is of political and military needs.
To get a full view of the security threat of the railway link to Lhasa on India, one should look back at the October 1962 Chinese invasion of the Arunachal Sector(known as North East Frontier Agency at that time) and its sudden declaration of ceasefire on 21 November, 1962. In military terms, it was a logical decision. As winter was already setting in, the Chinese Army found it extremely difficult to maintain its position on the snow-covered Himalayan passes. Reaching the plains of Assam, the Chinese Army were fearful of facing the reinforced Indian Army possessing heavy armament such as tanks. The Chinese army was in possession of light weapons and induction of heavy armament was impossible. The Golmud--Lhasa railway will further enhance China's military transport capabilities against India. Within a short period ot time, China will be able to mobilise upto 12 divisions on the India-Tibet border. The starting of the railway link will further bolster Chinese effort in expanding military bases and airfields on the India- Tibet border.
Then there is the nuclear aspect attached to the new railway line between Golmud and Lhasa. China can easily transport Intercontinental and Intermediate range missiles on the northern borders of India. It will make possible the deployment of recently developed rail car missiles, the DF-31A, similar to the Ukranian-built SS-24S on the Tibetan border with India.
Today China's military presence in Tibet includes 17 secret radar stations, 8 missile bases with 8 intercontinental missiles, 70 Medium range missiles, 20 intermediate range missiles, 14 airfields and 300,000 to 500,000 P.L.A troops. This railway project will make it possible for Beijing to convert Tibet into a permanent military base from where it can launch any kind of operations against India.This will make the northern borders of India more vulnerable.
Note: Shibayan Raha is Coordinator of the Calcutta chapter of Friends of Tibet (India), organisation. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org