Delhi-Chennai high-speed rail project could be a game changer for China

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Beijing:  Having lost a contract in Mexico that was supposedly in the bag, China is keeping its fingers crossed on a possible bullet-train deal with India along the 1,754-km Delhi-Chennai corridor.

A commentary that appeared on Thursday in the Global Times, affiliated to the Chinese Communist Party, expressed apprehension that the Sino-Indian partnership in the high-speed rail domain “has not yet been well-received by the Indian public”.
Funding scheme

Besides, it observed that “Japan, which is also eyeing the market and has pledged to offer a more attractive funding scheme, is a serious rival in the sector”.

The daily did express hope that the first rail project after President Xi Jinping’s September visit to India, if it materialises, could become a game-changer, yielding “untold dividends for both sides”.
Delegation visit

The commentary, which was also carried by the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese government, was timed with the visit of a five-member delegation of India’s High Speed Rail Corporation to China.

The delegation was led by the organisation’s Chairman, Satish Agnihotri.

It engaged in nailing the “terms of reference” of a feasibility study that Chinese authorities will undertake to establish a high-speed rail corridor between Delhi and Chennai.

According to highly placed sources, the finalisation of the study does not necessarily mean a commitment to award the high-speed rail contract to a Chinese company.

The commentary in the dailies acknowledged that the “global reach of Chinese high-speed rail is still in its nascent stage,” but asserted that China “has become one of the very few countries that own intellectual property rights for high-speed rail technology, and has achieved this in the space of only a decade”.

China’s mixed response to the prospect of a deal, which could reduce the travel time between Delhi and Chennai to around six hours, follows its recent debacle in Mexico.
Mexican setback

On November 3, Mexico’s Transport Minister had announced that China — the only bidder — had won the contract for a 210-km rail link between Mexico City and Queretaro, an upcoming industrial centre to the north.

Yet, in an unexpected turn of events, Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto decided “to revoke the November 3 ruling and restart” the bidding process.

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