India fast-tracks roads along LAC

India fast-tracks roads along LAC

Government move to catch up with Chinese modernisation of infrastructure

India fast-tracks roads along LAC

Giving details of the government’s action plan to catch up with the modernisation of Chinese rail, road and airlinks along the borders, Defence Minister A K Antony told a consultative group of parliamentarians attached to his ministry here on Tuesday that the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) would be completely preoccupied with the work on building strategic roads.

He even said a new outfit might be created in order to construct other important roads within the country along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China.

China has made rapid strides in improving its road, rail and air connectivity to the Indian border, giving it an edge in rapid troop mobilisation in case of an emergency.

Beijing has constructed nearly 40,000 km of road, 1118 of rail track and several airstrips in Tibet that enables it to move large troops to close to the border within a month’s time.   
Strategic points

Once completed, well laid-out roads up to the India-China borders in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh regions will help the army in rapidly ferrying armoured vehicles, tanks and troops in strategic points close to the border to face a potential war situation. India and China though have an agreement since 1993 that has helped maintain peace and tranquility along the LAC. 

Two years ago a special China Strategy Group that consisted of defence secretary, foreign secretary and chiefs of various intelligence agencies had recommended to the government the urgent need to build up strategic road links along the LAC in view of the upgraded strategic infrastructure on the Chinese side. It had recommended construction/modernisation of 72 roads along the borders. Last month the National Security Council had reviewed the situation.

Currently, the Border Roads Organisation is constructing 61 India-China border roads with a total length of 3,429 km.

BRO plans to complete 43 by 2012. Another nine will be completed by 2013 and the rest are likely to be completed by 2018.

This is a part of BRO’s first phase of long-term road construction project in which 130 roads totalling 4,881 km will be built.

The organisation has reasons to step up the tempo. With the Centre’s increased realisation that Beijing is in a superior position to quickly position its army on the Indian border, the defence ministry is working overtime to keep pace with China. For long, BRO has blamed the environment ministry’s delayed approvals for the tardy progress of road construction work.

Now, for speedy construction, BRO had been permitted to outsource the airlifting operations to ferry heavy equipment to difficult-to-reach places in Jammu and Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh. Renewed focus has been given to road construction work in Arunachal, where BRO has started a new project, Arunak, to complete many hill roads leading to the border.

In the second phase, BRO will complete 255 roads with a total length of 10,104 km and an all-weather road to Leh as well as 8.8 km-long Rohtang Tunnel. The contract for the Rs 1,450 crore project has been awarded and construction may begin on July 1. Once ready, the tunnel under the 13,000 ft Rohtang Pass will help establish an all-weather alternate route to Leh rather than depending on the Srinagar-Leh highway all the time. Two more critical tunnels — a 12 km-long one at Zojila and a 3.1-km tunnel at Z-morh on Srinagar-Leh Road will also be constructed later.

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