Kunming-Kolkata Bullet Train Service on Cards

IndraStra Global

Kunming-Kolkata Bullet Train Service on Cards

By IndraStra Global News Team

Image Attribute: A CR400AF trainset waiting for departure at Beijing South Railway Station (G1) to Shanghai Hongqiao in September 2017 / Source: Wikipedia

Image Attribute: A CR400AF trainset waiting for departure at Beijing South Railway Station (G1) to Shanghai Hongqiao in September 2017 / Source: Wikipedia

On September 12, 2018, Chinese consul general in Kolkata, Ma Zhanwu revealed China's intent to connect Kunming in Yunan province (Southwestern China) and Kolkata in West Bengal (Eastern India) with a bullet train service via Bangladesh and Myanmar.

"We are looking forward to bullet trains from Kolkata to Kunming. The whole of Asia will be connected," said Zhanwu while addressing a conference on connectivity and trade relations between China and India, organized jointly by the Chinese Consulate and Observer Research Foundation. "It will only take a few hours to reach Kolkata from Kunming if the rail link becomes a reality," he asserted. Elaborating on the bullet train project, he further added, "There can be industrial hubs and clusters created along this line."

Earlier in the year 2015, China mooted a plan to establish a high-speed railway link between Kunming and Kolkata through Dhaka and Chittagong at Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) meeting in Kunming, as a part of its "Southern Silk Route" initiative - a subset of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI)."

The proposed bullet train service is intended to ride on 2800 kilometer (1740 mi) Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) infrastructure corridor and will let all four countries exploit the existing complementarities in trade — in terms of both sectors and products.
  • Bangladesh, as many other South Asian countries, engages in both services export and low-end manufactured goods;
  • China is the indomitable manufacturing exporter of the world; 
  • India has gradually positioned itself as a leading services exporter;
  • Myanmar is a primary goods exporter and has abundant cheap labor; its main exports are natural gas, minerals, rice, and forest and marine products.

All four countries have different resource endowments and variable Trade Complementarity Indices (TCI) along the corridor [1]. TCI is highest for India-China, which indicates that the BCIM is going to benefit China and India the most. While the Bangladesh-India TCI is found to be low, the study takes a pan-India and pan-Bangladesh view whereas the BCIM is likely to tap the provincial potentials in trade, for instance between India’s North East and Bangladesh. As of now, non-tariff barriers in the form of shoddy infrastructure hamper trade between the two. The BCIM might trigger a flurry of new infrastructure building.

However, kindly, do note, India has earlier rejected a Chinese proposal to use the old Sitwell road used during World War II for security reasons. It passes through the Kachin state of Myanmar known to have a large number of camps training insurgents active in the Northeast. Besides, the road connects the Indian border in Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as its own territory. Also, India has been giving a lukewarm response to various land connectivity project originating from/to China by linking its reservation to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

Despite, Chinese envoy's assurance with respect to his country's policies - like the BRI, which he claims to be designed for "extensive discussion and shared benefits with neighboring countries", India will play its card cautiously at the Track I level for sure.

References:

[1] Rahman, M., Rahman, H., and Shadat, W.B. (2007),’ BCIM Economic Cooperation: Prospects and Challenges’, CPD Occasional Paper Series 64, Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), Dhaka.