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Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Tibet visit raises many eyebrows


Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23

Eyebrows have been raised here over Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first visit to the Tibet area after becoming President.

Xi arrived in Tibet on Wednesday with the touchdown at Nyingchi, a city close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese President then drove to the Nyang river bridge to examine the Yarlung Zangbo or the Brahmaputra River.

Interestingly, the Chinese Xinhua agency disclosed the visit on Friday when Xi was wrapping up his engagements.

Xi on Thursday went to Nyingchi railway station and took a train to Lhasa.

This is the first visit by Xi to ‘core Tibet’ or the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) since becoming the Communist Party of China general secretary in 2012. He had last visited Lhasa in 2011 when he was the Vice-President.

Xi’s visit is significant because it comes a month after China began working on a bullet train line linking Lhasa to Nyingchi, close to the border with Arunachal Pradesh.

The 435-km line has a designed pace of 160 kilometres per hour and would join the Tibet Autonomous Region capital to Nyingchi with a journey time of three-and-a-half hours.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail is one amongst a number of main infrastructure projects in Tibet’s southern and south-eastern counties close to the Arunachal border.

China had last month accomplished building of a strategically important freeway which it termed as the “second significant passageway” to Medog county bordering Arunachal Pradesh.

The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail is one part of the Sichuan-Tibet railway line connecting the two provincial capitals. This would be the second railway line connecting Tibet to the hinterland, following the already open Qinghai-Tibet rail.

Photos released by Xinhua showed Xi was accompanied by Zhang Youxia, a vice chairperson of China’s Central Military Commission and a senior general in the People’s Liberation Army.

The last time a Chinese president had visited Tibet was in 1990 when Jiang Zemin had taken a tour. His successor Hu Jintao never visited TAR during his 10 years as President.

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