With tension still persisting along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, India has ramped up its infrastructure development in the border areas for obvious “strategic reasons”, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said here on Wednesday.
His observations came in the backdrop of tension in Eastern Ladakh since May 2020 and China’s attempt to alter the LAC in Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, in December last year.
The Minister told a group of reporters that the work on the strategically important Chushul-Dungti-Fukche-Demchok road, spanning 135 kilometre in the Ladakh region, began last month.
Jaishankar pointed out that 16 key passes required to maintain troops along the border with China have been opened in a record time and much ahead of the previous years, resulting in the saving of enormous funds in terms of the air sustenance of cut-off areas.
Some of the mountain passes along the border areas in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim and Ladakh have to be closed during the harsh winter months due to heavy snowfall.
Giving an account of the Government’s priorities, Jaishankar said the length of 6,806 kilometre of roads constructed along the borders with China from 2014 to 2022 was almost double the length of 3,610 kilometre built between 2008 and 2014.
In case of construction of bridges along the border with China, he said the total length was 7,270 metres from 2008 to 2014, while it went up to 22,439 metres during the period between 2014 and 2022.
“Sixteen key passes, which are required to maintain the troops on the China border, have opened in a record time, much ahead of the previous years, thus saving enormous funds in terms of air sustenance of cut-off areas, apart from immense economic and strategic advantages,” Jaishankar said.
Citing an example, he said the traffic on the crucial Zojila axis was extended till January 4 last year and it was opened again on March 19, setting an all-time record of the pass being opened in just 73 days against the traditional norms of four-five months.
“We have focused on a rapid development of infrastructure along the northern borders with China for obvious strategic reasons,” Jaishankar said.
“We have focused on rapidly developing border connectivity with our friendly neighbours to enhance trade, energy and other people-to-people exchanges,” he added.
The External Affairs Minister said the construction of the Sela tunnel on the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road, located at a height of 13,700 feet, will offer all-weather connectivity to the Indian Army to the LAC near Tawang.
It consists of two tunnels -- one 1,790 metres long, another 475 metres long. The construction of the tunnel is expected to be completed by August. Once completed, it will be the world’s longest bi-lane tunnel located at a height of more than 13,000 feet.
The External Affairs Minister also spoke about the adoption of new technologies for the construction of infrastructure in high-altitude and inaccessible border areas.
He specifically referred to indigenous modular bridges of load class-70 and the use of a special non-frost susceptible sub-base (NFSSB) layer for road projects in Ladakh.
The External Affairs Minister also highlighted various connectivity projects with neighbouring countries, including Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan.