From construction of roads, tunnels and bridges to early opening of mountain passes despite formidable terrain and weather challenges, India has worked on a war-footing over the last year to ensure swifter mobility of its troops and weapon systems in forward areas amidst the continuing military confrontation with China in eastern Ladakh.
India is still quite behind China in terms of border infrastructure but “all-out efforts are being made to narrow the gap”, even as 50,000 to 60,000 troops continue to remain forward deployed along the frontier, say officers.
Towards enhancing border connectivity, defence minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday e-inaugurated 12 roads built by Border Roads Organization (BRO), which includes a 20-km Kimin-Potin double lane one and nine others in Arunachal Pradesh as well as one each in Ladakh and J&K. “India seeks peace but knows how to respond befittingly if anyone shows us an aggressive attitude,” he said, at the event in Lakhimpur district of Assam.
The two-day Army commanders’ conference, chaired by General M M Naravane, also kicked off in Delhi on Thursday to discuss the operational situation along the borders with China and Pakistan.
China has so far declined to complete the stalled disengagement process at Hot Springs, Gogra and Demchok in eastern Ladakh, let alone stop blocking Indian patrols in the strategically-located Depsang Plains. It has also upgraded infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control in terms of roads, troop accommodations, helipads and surface-to-air missiles positions, as was earlier reported by TOI.
India, too, has cranked up its efforts. Overall, BRO has completed 1,200-km of “road formation works” and 2,850-km of “surfacing works” over the last one year. “Of the 1,200-km figure, just 162-km is in Rajasthan. The rest is distributed all along the northern border from J&K to Arunachal,” an official told TOI.
There is also much-needed progress in the slow pace of construction of the 73 “strategically-important roads”, totaling 4,643-km along the China front, which were first approved way back in 1999.
Of the 61 roads (totaling 3,323-km) roads with BRO, around 45 have been fully completed, while “connectivity” has been achieved on 59. “Seven of the last nine roads that will be left this year will be completed by March 2022, and the other two by March 2023,” said another official.
Similarly, BRO has “completed” 74 permanent bridges and 33 bailey bridges over the last one year. “Some forward locations, like Yangtse in Arunachal, have also been connected,” he added.
As for mountain passes in the higher reaches of Himalayas, several of them ranging from Zoji La, Lachung La and Shinkun La to Baralacha La and Nakee La have been opened much ahead of time this year. “The early opening of these passes has led to crores being saved on air sustenance efforts,” said the official.
This article was first published on The Times of India