BEIJING, April 10 (UPI) -- China is planning to extend an existing railway into Nepal that will link the two countries through a tunnel under Mount Everest – a move that can establish an important channel of trade to India for the world's second-largest economy.
The Qinghai-Tibet railway currently extends from other areas of China to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa, reported The Guardian. State media China Daily quoted a railway expert at the Chinese Academy of Engineering who said the project was being planned "at Nepal's request."
China's influence in Nepal has been growing.
Beijing has funded major road construction, hydroelectric projects, airports and even a pilgrimage center in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha.
The Times News Network of India reported that Beijing increased annual aid to Nepal from $24 million to $128 million.
In 2014, 71,107 Chinese tourists flocked to Nepal, and goods made in China can be frequently found in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu and other areas.
TNN reported the railway between Tibet and Nepal is to run 335.5 miles, and China's move comes after India, a regional rival, skirted involvement in China's railway projects.
China's move into Nepal is also tied to Beijing's attempt to block Tibetan travel into India, where the Dalai Lama resides in Dharamshala.
Beijing has claimed the rail expansion on the Tibetan plateau benefits Tibetans economically but the project also threatens the "fragile ecosystem of the world's highest and largest plateau," according to the International Campaign for Tibet.
Chances also are high Beijing will help Pakistan build a natural gas pipeline to Iran in a bid to increase its influence in South Asia, a project of concern to India.
G Parthasarathy, a retired senior Indian diplomat and commentator, said India is "much more concerned about the Chinese relationship with Pakistan, than with Nepal."