Chinese infrastructure projects in India stalled by red tape

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New Delhi:  Along with talks on resolving border disputes, India and China, the two most populous and fastest growing Asian economies, are talking business and laying a roadmap to reach a 'dynamic balance' in bilateral trade.

Bilateral trade between the two nations reached $66 billion last year. Currently, the balance tilts on the Chinese side with India running a $29 billion deficit. Every year, thousands of Indian businessmen go to China to buy products which are eventually sold at much cheaper rates in comparison to the ones made here. That low-priced Chinese products have flooded Indian markets is no secret.

But China is eyeing a much bigger role, beyond consumer goods and retail, into infrastructure projects.

Amongst the big ones, Shanghai Urban Construction Group (SUCG) along with L&T is constructing a tunnel for the underground metro line from close to Mandi House to ITO in Delhi.

China has been chosen over several international bidders, owing to sophisticated machinery and for making the lowest bid.

However, work for the tunnel remains stalled because of red tape.

"The tunnel is 750 metres long. We are making it from Mandi House to ITO... we have crossed the Metro line above ground and have reached till before the railway line, but now we are stuck for over 2.5 months," said a Chinese engineer working on the tunnel.

This tunnel crosses two major train crossings above the ground - a metro line and a railway line. While the Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) gave them permission to move ahead with the tunnel, they are still waiting for permissions from the Railways. So the 350-tonne heavy tunnel machine is stuck underground, near the pillars of a railway line in crowded ITO.

"Yes, it can be dangerous because for two and a half months it is standing. The tunnel machine is so heavy, the soil can go down... but right now, it is okay," says project head Lu Yuanqiang, chairman, SUCG Infrastructure, India.

As per procedure, any tunneling below a railway line requires the approval from the Commissioner for Metro Railway Safety which has been obtained. However, before starting the actual tunneling work the approval from the Northern Railways is also required which is currently under process.

Mr Lu says he wishes the processes were faster.

But this is not the only Chinese project stuck in red tape.

An 80-kilometre-long stretch of National Highway-8 between Delhi and Jaipur is being turned into a 10-lane from the present four-lane road by a Chinese firm. Sources have told NDTV that the company is waiting for the last four years to acquire a five kilometre stretch to finish the project because the farmers are not ready to give their land for the project.

Perhaps the Indian government is doing little to boost the confidence of Chinese companies. However, they should realise that these companies probably will share their experience with other Chinese firms interested in investing in India.



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