China could offer shortcut for India as it pursues large-scale rail network upgrade

By Wang Jiamei Source:Global Times Published: 2017/6/4 20:18:39

"If you want to get rich, build roads first." This old Chinese saying is a typical description of the role of China's roads and railways in facilitating its economic development. Given the country's advanced technology and experience in infrastructure construction, cooperation with China would offer a shortcut for countries like India that tend to copy the China model.

Just last week, India's Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu said that the ministry aims to replicate the China model for the country's railways, according to a report by the Times of India. And the government needs to put major investment into the rail sector in the coming 30 years to catch up with China, Prabhu estimated, adding that rising debt should not be a concern, as it is an inevitable part of revamping infrastructure.

The minister's open attitude about taking on debt actually underlines the urgency of India's need to upgrade its rail infrastructure. India's railway network, often called the lifeline of the nation, plays a critical role in the country's economic development, carrying more than 23 million passengers and 3 million tons of freight on 19,000 trains a day. But the rail system, built during British colonial rule, suffers relatively frequent train accidents.

In January this year, at least 36 people were killed in a train derailment in southern India. The accident came just two months after 150 people died in another train derailment in northern India. Dilapidated infrastructure and poor management are the main reasons for the accidents, which is why the Modi administration pledged in 2015 to invest $137 billion over five years to upgrade the rail network.

In fact, India could accelerate its rail upgrading process and shorten the investment time if it were to cooperate with China. Over the past decade, China has developed a new high-speed rail network, surpassing Western countries in terms of technology and standards. As the only country that has pursued large-scale railway construction in recent years, China now has the world's most extensive rail network. This unparalleled advantage makes it a perfect partner for any country that would like to develop transportation infrastructure to propel economic growth. As such, it makes perfect sense for India to take a shortcut to cooperate with China in order to revitalize its rail system and management levels.

The author is a reporter with the Global Times. bizopinion@globaltimes.com.cn



Posted in: EYE ON THE ECONOMY

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