Six years after the project burst into the public discourse, little concrete progress has been made.
The story starts in December 1975, during the trip to China of U.S. President Gerald Ford.
As first reported in the BBC, Ford and his secretary of state, Henry Kissinger, were talking to Deng Xiaoping, the vice premier of China. With his trip coming shortly after India’s annexation of the Kingdom of Sikkim, Ford asked Deng if India would now look to invade Nepal.
Assuring the American duo that China is doing all it can to prevent such an eventuality, Deng added, “…but what we can do is quite limited. Perhaps things will get better when our railroad into Tibet is accomplished.”
China seems to have understood the strategic value of a trans-border railway to Nepal, by way of Tibet, even back then. But the idea of that extended Chinese rail-line was put on hold until China was better equipped to take up such an ambitious enterprise.