Himachal seeks railway till Leh to counter China

May 31st, 2008 - 10:03 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pratibha Patil
By Jaideep Sarin
Shimla, May 31 (IANS) With China linking Tibet’s capital of Lhasa with a railway line, Himachal Pradesh Saturday urged President Pratibha Patil to ask the central government to execute a railway link through this hill state up to Leh in the mountainous region of Jammu and Kashmir. The demand has been made to Patil in a letter handed over by the state government though Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal here Saturday.

President Patil, the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces, is presently on a six-day holiday in this hill state.

When Dhumal had taken up the matter with the president earlier, she had sought a written communication on this important matter as well as on issues of the hill state that she could take up with the central government upon her return from her holiday.

In the letter, Dhumal pointed out that setting up a railway line through the hill resort of Manali up to Leh was strategic to India’s interests. He pointed out that considering China’s enhanced activity in Tibet, the government should take up the rail link to Leh on a priority basis and should ignore the cost factor involved in the project.

If executed, the railway link will pass through treacherous mountainous areas, including high snow-bound passes like the Rohtang Pass and Baralacha Pass.

The Himachal Pradesh government has suggested that the rail link should be included in the over nine km long all-weather Rohtang Pass tunnel being built in the state. The tunnel is presently being proposed only for vehicular traffic.

The state government has pointed out that the railway link to Leh would be strategic for defence needs since it will help in easier and faster movement of troops and equipment to India’s northern border with China.

The road to Leh from Manali remains closed for nearly six months a year due to heavy snowfall on the Rohtang Pass and three other passes that on the 300-km stretch.

The president ends her six-day holiday with her family here Sunday.

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