Taiwan and India yesterday in Chiayi signed a letter of intent to cooperate over railway heritage, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in India director James Tien (田中光) and Sriharan Madhusudhanan, director of the India-Taipei Association, signed the letter on behalf of their respective governments.
The ministry said that Taiwan and India each constructed mountain railways in the late 19th century and early 20th century, including the Alishan Forest Railway in Chiayi and systems such as the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway, the Kalka Shimla Railway and the Nilgiri Mountain Railway in India.
Through the letter the two nations would further engage in cooperation for the protection, safeguarding and management of their mountain railway heritage, the ministry said.
The letter is the third bilateral document signed by Taiwan and India this year, following an air services agreement and a memorandum of understanding on agricultural cooperation.
The letter is part of the Taipei’s “new southbound policy” of sharing resources and promoting cultural exchanges and cooperation with nations in Southeast Asia, as well as India, New Zealand and Australia.
The letter will advance the tourism industries in Taiwan and India, the ministry said.
Council of Agriculture Deputy Minister Weng Chang-liang (翁章梁) said that UNESCO has registered five railways as world heritages, all of which are alpine railways and three of which are in India.
The council will learn from India’s experience in a bid to push for the Alishan Forest Railway to be included among the world heritage sites, Weng said.
The ceremony was held in conjunction with celebrations to mark the 104th anniversary of the beginning of operations on the Alishan route.
The railway was opened in 1912, initially running from Chiayi to Erwanping Station, but was extended to Alishan Station on Dec. 25, 1914.
Although originally constructed for logging, the railway is today primarily a tourist attraction, with unique Z-shaped switchbacks, tunnels and wooden bridges.
The Alishan railway climbs to 2,200m above sea level, making it the only rail service of its kind in Taiwan.
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