India not in infra race with China: BRO chief | Latest News India - Hindustan Times

India not in infra race with China: BRO chief

ByRahul Singh, New Delhi
Apr 17, 2024 08:46 AM IST

India’s infrastructure push must meet its needs and the Chinese approach is irrelevant as the requirements of both countries are different, Srinivasan said

India is not competing with China to develop its forward infrastructure along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control (LAC) and is driven solely by its long-term strategic goals, the military’s requirements and economic aspirations of people living in the country’s farthest frontiers, Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lieutenant General Raghu Srinivasan said on Tuesday.

Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lieutenant General Raghu Srinivasan (ANI)
Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lieutenant General Raghu Srinivasan (ANI)

“Drawing a comparison with China is an argument that doesn’t hold merit the way we look at things,” he said in an interview. “Infrastructure development is not a head-to-head contest and India’s overarching plan for its border areas is based on a clear strategic vision.”

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The BRO chief’s comments are significant as he has sought to decouple India’s forward infrastructure push from the Chinese thrust on developing its border areas at a time when the two countries are locked in a dragging military standoff in eastern Ladakh. Both nations have ploughed billions into building infrastructure to strengthen their military capabilities since the LAC row erupted almost four years ago.

India’s infrastructure push must meet its needs and the Chinese approach is irrelevant as the requirements of both countries are different, Srinivasan said.

“As far as infrastructure development goes, it’s not the same as the scale of deployment of men and weaponry in that theatre. If he (China) has 100 battalions, do I also have 100, or if he has deployed 100 tanks, am I matching that number? That (question) is not for me as I must focus on building infrastructure that meets my needs. He will do what he has to do based on his needs,” he said.

Srinivasan distanced himself from frequent attempts from several quarters to compare the strides taken by both countries towards building and strengthening border infrastructure as a necessary enabler of stronger military posture, and declare China far ahead in the race.

After the standoff with China began in May 2000, India has built various roads, bridges, tunnels, airfields and helipads in its border areas for military mobility and logistics support for deployed forces, and for civilian use. Infrastructure development has also focussed on providing better living experience and improved facilities to soldiers, and conservation of modern weapons and equipment deployed in forward areas.

BRO has completed 330 infrastructure projects at a cost of 8,737 crore in the past three years, and significantly improved the strategic mobility of the Indian armed forces along the contested border.

China has constructed new airbases, missile sites, roads, bridges, reinforced bunkers, underground facilities to protect military assets from aerial strikes, accommodation for soldiers and ammunition depots.

“We are looking at what we need to do. There is a well thought out plan which is unfolding as per our strategic vision. Think of it as a carpet being unrolled. The infrastructure development you see is akin to the part of the carpet that has been unrolled,” Srinivasan said. “A lot more is happening, and the carpet will be fully unrolled in a systematic and methodical way as we work towards the long-term goals of seamless and all-weather connectivity to all forward areas, including the underpopulated ones.”

The BRO chief highlighted the challenges to infrastructure development in India’s forward areas, including the topography, climate and a limited peak working season (May to November) that hinder work. “The Tibetan plateau across the LAC is different and hardly presents any infrastructure development challenges. On the contrary, the Himalayas are fragile and there are reasons for us to sometimes proceed slowly and have more reliance on protective structures,” he added.

Still, India’s border infrastructure push has been propelled by speedy execution of strategic projects to support military operations, increased spending and focussed adoption of technology and techniques.

Due to the geography, it is much easier to construct infrastructure on the Tibetan side of LAC, said military affairs expert Lieutenant General DS Hooda (retd).

“Therefore, if we make direct comparisons, it will always appear that we are playing catch-up. We must focus on building infrastructure that supports our operational requirements. Our problem has not been that we do not have an equal length of roads and railway lines as exist on the other side. We had a shortfall in infrastructure that impacted our operational plans,” Hooda said. “That problem is now being overcome.”

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