Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Enter The Dragon

I had never before heard of Trishuli river in Nepal. Apparently, it is a very popular river for white water rafting with foreign tourists visiting that country. The river has patches of extremely fast flowing water or rapids and I believe that it is a great fun to ride the river in rubber boats or rafts. Trishuli river flows in North-South direction, just to north of Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal, and later joins the Kali or Budhi Gandki river.
Like many rivers flowing into North India, Trishuli river also originates from Tibet. In Tibet, this river is called Gyirong or Kyirong River. It crosses into Nepal near a small hamlet called ‘Resuo’ There is a small check-post erected by Chinese military at the border on a small existing trading track along the river. One can enter into Nepal from Tibet by crossing a small steel wire suspension bridge. After entering Nepal, nearest road-head is at Syabrubesi village, at a distance of about seventeen kilometers from the border.

Historically, Tibet and Nepal have fought many wars. The trading track along narrow Trishuli river gorge, always had provided an easy access to Nepal for Tibetan invaders . This border outpost has been therefore always well protected. The ruins of an old fort called ‘Rasua Garhi’ still exist not very far from ‘Resuo’ Check-post. No one except Nepali citizens inhabiting in this area, are allowed to go near the border or cross it. Nearest town from this border in Tibet is also named after the river and is also called as Gyirong. The inhabitants of this area have been traditionally going to Gyirong town in Tibet for buying all their provisions.
The days of popularity of Trishuli river, as a well known white water rafting center, seem to be coming to an end. Construction of a highway between border check-post at ‘Resuo’ to Road-head at Syabrubesi village is fast nearing completion. As per agreement between Governments of Nepal and China, this 17 kilometer long stretch of highway in Nepal Territory, is being built by Chinese construction workers. The cost of this work is being borne by China. The terrain here is so jagged and inaccessible that major blasting and rock removing work is needed. One can see such blasting and excavating work going on this patch of road. It is expected that the Chinese would have to spend about US$ 20 million to complete just this 17 kilometer long patch of road.

In Tibet, this highway would extend up to Gyirong town. A major road artery has been already built between Lhasa and Gyirong. On the Nepalese side a road already exists between Syabrubesi and Kathmandu. It is clear that as soon as highway between Gyirong and Syabrubesi is ready, a direct motor-way would open between Lhasa and Kathmandu.

Expectations run high in this region as it is expected that the road would provide big boost to trade and tourism between Nepal and Tibet. Local people are expecting employment , work and easy access to vast range of consumer goods from China, better Chinese built schools on other side of border and in general, benefits from Chinese wealth.

However the real importance of this Gyirong-Syabrubesi highway is neither about Nepal connectivity nor Lhasa- Kathmandu connectivity. Lhasa is now connected to Xinghai province in China by an excellent Highway. Real beneficiary from this road is likely to be the China- India trade, which has already reached astronomical proportions.

There are obvious apprehensions about this road in India, as a motor-way that can carry heavy trucks loaded with traded goods can also carry soldiers and armoured vehicles if required. Chinese frontier is no longer at some far off place in Ladakh or Arunachal Pradesh. It has suddenly moved very near, just North of Delhi. For a millennium the Himalayan ranges have always provided a security and protection to people of India from invaders coming from central Asia or steppe. This protecting barrier seems have been now pierced by this latest Chinese action. India needs to take necessary and suitable counter steps to safeguard the country from any misadventures.

Chinese also seem to have worries and apprehensions about this road. There is a sizable Tibetan community in Nepal which basically consists of disgruntled people who have run away from Tibet because of their opposition to Chinese occupation of Tibet. These people, when provided with such an easy access to Tibet, are expected to create trouble for the Chinese regime.
The Chinese Dragon has now suddenly appeared on the door-steps of India. Whether it would bring trade and prosperity to the region or would create head aches and problems is yet to be seen.
31 January 2010

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