The "People's Daily" of China has carried the following posting in its People’s Forum on August 5,2010:
"PLA ( People's Liberation Army) Daily reported August 3 a train loaded with important combat readiness materials of the Air Force of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) got to the destination safely via the Qinghai-Tibet Railway.
"According to a leader of the Military Transportation Department of the Logistics Department of the PLA Air Force, this is the first time for his Military Transportation Department to organize combat readiness materials to be transported to Tibet by railway since the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opened to traffic, symbolizing a new improvement of the military transportation capacity of the PLA Air Force in combat support.
"As the average altitude of the Qinghai-Tibet Railway is above 4,000 meters, the transport guards are apt to cause altitude reaction sickness. To ensure the safety of the transportation, the Military Transportation Department of the PLA Air Force dispatched personnel to command in the forefront and follow the whole transportation process as well as participate in reinforcing, binding and inspecting materials on the way.
"To ensure transportation safety of important combat readiness materials, the officers and men of the Military Transportation Department of the PLA Air Force immediately examine the safety state of the train each time when the train stops at the stations along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway. They also persist in summing up experience after traveling for some distance, so as to adjust and improve the preplans for the following actions. During the stop process of the train, the security sentinels always keep a close watch, so as to ensure the important combat readiness materials to be transported to the destination safely.
"For a long term, Indian troops have taken the form of “war of attrition” in the South Tibet (Arunachal Pradesh) area to counteract the PLA army stationed there, solely relying on their geographic edge and advantages in transportation.
"However, with the rapid rise of China’s national strength as well as its transporting capacities of important combat readiness materials, could India still afford the “War of Attrition” with China? "
My comments: The Chinese have embarked on a policy of constructing more airports in Tibet capable of being used by civil and military planes and strengthening the freight-carrying capacity of the railway line to Tibet.According to an unconfirmed report, they intend doubling the line so that one line could be dedicated to freight traffic. Recent open-source reports on airport construction in Tibet are annexed.
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )
FROM A PRESS RELEASE DATED JUNE 29,2010, OF THE CHINA TIBET INFORMATION CENTRE
Tibet's Ngari Gunsa Airport is ready to open in July following the successful flight trial. The Ngari Gunsa Airport in northwest Tibet's Ngari Prefecture is set to open in July following the successful flight trial on May 28. The flight distance from Lhasa to Ngari is 1,098km.
Li Qiang, deputy stationmaster of Ngari Civil Aviation Administration, said," The price of ticket is supposed to start from 2,590 yuan. The flights will operate on Tuesdays and Fridays. Up to now, the tickets can only be bought at the fixed stations, and the booking online service is not available. Concerned by the weather in Ngari and the large aircraft fuel load, 50 to 60 passengers can be delivered by Air China A319 in winter, and 30 to 20 in summer." The airport began to be built in May of 2007 and completed the constructions in May this year at a total cost of 1.7 billion yuan. At an altitude of 4,274 meters, the construction of the airport, the fourth of its kind in Tibet, was very difficult. Ngari Prefecture, 1,600 km away from Tibet's capital of Lhasa, lies in the northwestern part of Tibet with complicated geological conditions. Transportation has been a bottleneck to the area's social and economic development, especially the development of the local tourism industry, according to local authorities.
FROM A DESPATCH DATED APRIL 10,2010, OF THE XINHUA NEWS AGENCY FROM LHASA
LHASA - The fifth civil airport in southwest China's Tibet autonomous region is expected to start operating in October, a local aviation official said.Construction of the Peace Airport in Xigaze prefecture began in April last year and would be completed in September, making its opening in October feasible, said Xu Bo, director of the Civil Aviation Administration's Tibet Branch. With an investment of 489 million yuan ($71.7 million), the airport would be able to handle 230,000 passengers and 1,150 tons of cargos and allow 2,580 take-offs and landings annually by 2020. It is believed the project will boost investment and tourism in Xigaze, the second largest city in Tibet. Xigaze is home to a group of ancient temples and the world's highest peak, Mount Qomolangma, in Dingri county. It would be the fifth civil airport in Tibet, after those in Lhasa, Qamdo, Nyingchi and Ngari. Tibet also plans to build the world's highest airport at an altitude of 4,436 meters in Nagqu Prefecture.
FROM A DESPATCH DATED JULY 1,2010, FROM CHENGDU OF THE XINHUA NEWS AGENCY
NGARI/CHENGDU - Gunsa Airport in Southwest China's Tibet autonomous region started operation Thursday ( July 1,2010), becoming the fourth civil airport on the "Roof of the World." An Airbus 319 landed at Gunsa Airport, in Ngari prefecture, at 10:20 am, marking the airport's formal opening.The passenger flight from Chengdu, capital of the neighboring Sichuan province, was operated by Air China's southwestern branch. Air China would fly from Chengdu to Lhasa and on to Ngari every Tuesday and Friday, said Bao Lida, a press official with the company's southwestern branch based in Chengdu. "The flight leaves Chengdu at 5:50 am and arrives Lhasa two hours later," said Bao. "It leaves Lhasa at 8:40 am and arrives Ngari at 10:20 am." The flight distance between Chengdu and Ngari is 2,300 km. Gunsa Airport sits more than 4,200 meters above sea level and has a 4,500-meter runway. Its annual throughput capacity is expected to reach 120,000 passengers by 2020. Construction of the airport began in May 2007 and cost an estimated 1.65 billion yuan ($241.22 million). Before the airport opened, Ngari was linked to Lhasa only by road and it took three days to cover the 1,600-km route. Gunsa Airport is the fourth civil airport in Tibet after Gonggar Airport in Lhasa, Bamda Airport in Qamdo Prefecture and Nyingchi Airport. A fifth airport, Peace Airport in Xigaze, is expected to open in October. Exactly four years ago, China opened a landmark railway linking Tibet with major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.