India will build 558 roads totalling 27,986 km by 2030 at a cost of over Rs.500 billion (over $10 billion) in an effort to shore up its infrastructure along the borders with China and Pakistan.
This massive project, to be completed in two phases, seems to be the country's answer to China's infrastructure development in Tibet in the last decade and Pakistan's five major road projects.
During the last decade, China constructed three major highways totalling about 6,000 km and 55 more roads along the Indian border.
Road connectivity to border areas are now considered a force multiplier in wars, as they help faster troop and equipment mobilisation.
Under the road construction project, India's Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been tasked to build 277 roads with a total length of 13,100 km at a cost of Rs.248.86 billion in the first phase, a defence ministry official said in New Delhi.
Another 281 roads with a length of 14,886 km and costing Rs 252.68 billion would be built as part of the second phase, the official added.
Though the original plan was to complete the first phase of the project by 2012, the work did not proceed at the desired pace and may get stretched to 2015. The second phase was to be completed by 2022, but it would now extend up to 2030, the official said.
Under the first phase, the BRO has completed 29 roads. Work is in progress on 168 more roads and construction is yet to start on 80 roads.
The second phase of the border roads project too has started, with work on 11 roads totalling 876 km in progress.
Officials blamed the delays on time overruns in obtaining forest clearances, restricted fund flows, extreme weather conditions in high-altitude areas and administrative reasons such as poor logistical support and manpower.
"Maximum efforts are being put into the 73 China-Indian border roads by moving 61 units of BRO to Jammu and Kashmir, seven units to Himachal Pradesh, 33 units to Uttarakhand, 46 units to Arunachal Pradesh and 21 units to Sikkim to ensure timely completion of the roads," the official said.
China has already completed three major highways between Lhasa in Tibet and Aksai Chin in the west of the country (3,105 km), Gormo in the central mainland to Lhasa (1,154 km) and Chengdu and Linzhi in the east of the country (1,715 km).
The 52 other roads linked to these highways are spread over China's western, central and eastern regions.
These apart, China is also focussing on roads (1,739 km) from Kunming in its Yunnan province to Pangsau pass on the India-Myanmar border. Of this, the Kunming-Myitkyina (647 km) all-weather road was completed in May 2007.
Work on the Myitkyina-Tanai (192 km) road is in progress and work on the Tanai-Pangsau stretch has already been awarded to a pro-Chinese Myanmarese company.
Pakistan is working on converting the Jaglot-Skardu road and Sazin-Thakot road into highways, apart from carrying out a feasibility study for a Karakoram Highway-Dushanbe road through the Kuliab Pass. These roads are in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
It is also exploring the possibility of four-laning the Karakoram Highway and its realignment to make way for the Diamer-Bhasha Dam that would submerge 100 km of the highway from Sazin to Raikot.