Chinese firms are teaming with Indian companies to jointly bid for five high-speed railway projects in India in an apparent attempt to compete with Japan's plans to build bullet trains.
The Indian government will soon open the projects for public bidding and Tata Projects, one of the fastest growing infrastructure companies in India, is in discussions with an undisclosed Chinese company that owns the advanced technology used in the bid, state-run China Daily reported on Wednesday.
Industry insiders believe the potential partner would be one of China's major rail companies, CSR Corp or CNR Corp, though neither company would confirm they were part of the bid, the front page report from Mumbai titled "Chinese firms eye Indian rail projects" said.
The Daily's report came as Japan has announced financial, technical and operational support for bullet train projects in India during the current visit of PM Narendra Modi to Tokyo.
China is expected to unveil its investments in India during President Xi Jinping's visit to New Delhi, scheduled for the third week of this month.
The issue of Chinese investments in Indian railways figured in yesterday's talks between Indian Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and her Chinese counterpart Gao Hucheng.
She told media after the talks that India wants Chinese investments and expertise to upgrade the existing tracks to increase the speed of the trains up to about 160 km besides modernising stations.
Asked whether India is open for bullet trains from China, she said "I would not close the door but what exactly it is going to be and will it work out which the railways can work out".
Sitharaman's talks with Chinese officials focussed on Chinese investments to be announced by Xi during his visit to India.
Vinayak Deshpande, managing director of Tata Projects, said his company has previously cooperated with CSR on a train project in Navi Mumbai.
"We like to use China's technology and products because they are proven to be reliable and the cost is relatively low," Deshpande was quoted by Daily as saying.
He said the Indian government plans to complete the high-speed railway projects in the following five years.
"When the new prime minister, Narendra Modi said India will make great efforts on railway construction and urban infrastructure, it brings big opportunities for Chinese companies," Deshpande said.
Although Chinese companies face competition from Japanese and European counterparts, they have advantages in rich experience and lower cost in the high-speed railway sector, Deshpande said.
Feng Hao, a researcher at the Institute of Comprehensive Transportation at the National Development and Reform Commission, said India has been advancing high-speed railway projects to improve transportation, as it is keen to be part of the Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-China economic corridor and to upgrade the service level of its public transportation.
"This indicates that having an efficient and fast railway network is critical for India to reach all its goals," Feng told the Daily.
"China's Yunnan province is the gateway to South Asia and geographically close to West Bangladesh, and has a lot of potential to enhance business cooperation and tourism exchanges with East India," Feng said.
"As the China high-speed railway network grows, choosing Chinese technologies and products should be beneficial to a developing nation such as India or Turkey, because it offers competitive prices and timely after-sale services," he said.
Tatas have big investment in China which includes Tata Steel, TCS and Tata automobile unit. Tata steel has also cooperated with Shougang Group and Sinosteel Corp, two major Chinese steel companies, on a steel plant in eastern India. Madhu Kannan, a member of Tata Group's executive council told the Daily that China is becoming an important source for Tata.
"The group, as the parent company of Tata Projects, is also looking forward to working with Chinese companies in many other sectors," he said.
"The business cooperation will strengthen the friendship between China and India," he said. Premier Li Keqiang paid a visit to Tata Consultancy Services during his visit to India last year.
Image: A China Railway High-speed (CRH) Harmony bullet train pulls into the Shenyang Railway Station in Shenyang, Liaoning province.
Photograph: Jimmy Chang/Reuters