China opens strategic Tibet highway near Indian border
The highway links the strategically important Medog county in Tibet to the rest of China, ending the region's status as the only one in the country inaccessible by road.
The highway will also "help safeguard China's sovereignty and territory, as the county borders India", state-run China Daily quoted experts as saying today.
The reference to India is significant as China claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of southern Tibet in its border dispute with India.
The road was opened about a week after India and China signed the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement (BDCA) during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit here last month to address contentious border incursions and aggressive patrolling by the People's Liberation Army.
Special Representatives of the two sides have so far held 16 rounds of talks to resolve the boundary dispute.
Infrastructure development in border areas has also become a contentious issue in recent years between the Indian and Chinese armies.
China has developed Tibet with a string of five airports and rail and road links going up to the Indian border, giving it a strategic advantage in swiftly moving its troops.
At the same time, Beijing apparently has been objecting to similar development taken up by India to beef up infrastructure on its side.
Briefing the media during Singh’s visit, India Ambassador S Jaishankar said the BDCA would not come in the way of India developing its border areas and this work would go on.
The highway was completed after seven failed attempts over the past five decades. China first attempted to build the road in the 1960s, shortly after the 1962 war with India, state media reported.