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China to restart Tibet-Nepal bus
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, February 21
In a strong message to India and the world, China is all set to resume suspended bus services between Lhasa, capital of erstwhile Tibet, and Kathmandu in Nepal. The service was started on May 1, 2005, but suspended in 2006 after a political fallout over issuance of visas to Tibet.

Indian intelligence agencies have told the government that bus services between the two countries were set to resume in the next few days. The matter was also discussed among Indian security agencies a couple of weeks ago. This time, Nepal and China have even inked a formal agreement to promote tourism by restarting the service.

In the past, deadlines have been set for resumption of services but were not met. One such notable deadline was January 1, 2008, the year China hosted the Beijing Olympics.

Indian strategists construe resumption of the bus service by China in two ways - China firstly wants to tell India that it will not relinquish its strategic toe-hold in Nepal and continue to strive for more as both counties fight for more military ties in the Himalayan kingdom, a natural buffer between the two. The second is to show the Lhasa-Kathmandu route as the first legitimate and regular land approach to Tibet from outside China. The other route between India and Tibet for the Kailash Mansarovar pilgrimage is not all season and is opened for the annual summer pilgrimage a few days each year.

China aims at bringing in tourists - European and Indians - into Tibet from the Nepal route. This will mean that China will show “normalcy” in Tibet, a thought that will not find favour with the Dalai Lama, living in exile in India since 1959. China had recently raised a diplomatic storm after the Dalai Lama’s recent meeting with US President Barack Obama.

The decision to restart the bus service was taken during a two-day meeting between officials of the Nepal Tourism Board and Tibet Tourism Administration some months ago. Though a February-end deadline has been fixed, much will hinge upon the snows that block Himalayan passes leading up the Tibetan Plateau from Nepal.



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