India pushes to complete 61 strategic roads on China border by 2022
India has sharpened its focus on scaling up infrastructure along the China border and set a target of three years to complete all strategic road projects along its northern frontiers, a top general said three days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Arunachal Pradesh to lay the foundation of a tunnel at the Sela Pass.
The tunnel forms part of a strategic road project that will reduce travel time to Tawang, a sector where the Indian Army is heavily deployed. The PM will lay the foundation on February 9.
Border Roads Organisation (BRO) chief Lieutenant General Harpal Singh said on Wednesday that it will complete by December 2022 all 61 strategic roads assigned to it along the country’s northern border with China, spread across Arunachal Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.
These roads add up to a total length of 3,417km, of which 2,350km has been completed.
“We have redeployed our task forces and moved the bulk of them from the hinterland to the northern borders to construct strategic roads within three years. Of BRO’s 32,000-strong workforce, 67% is now deployed along the Chinese border,” Singh said.
The Sela Pass tunnel, announced by the government in the 2018 Budget, is part of the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road, one of the strategic projects along the Chinese border. The tunnel will cut down travel time to Tawang by at least two hours, improving border connectivity for the army.
Of the 61 roads assigned to it, BRO, which has finished work on 34, has been questioned by parliamentary panels over delays. “It is unfair to calculate progress by taking into account the number of roads completed. The length of the roads completed is the industry standard of measuring progress. We have completed almost 70% of the road length,” Singh said.
“If you also count tracks [distinct from black-top roads] that facilitate vehicular movement, we have covered 98% of the road length,” he said. Some key roads likely to be completed soon include a 35km stretch road that will improve connectivity to Doklam, where Indian and Chinese soldiers were locked in a tense 73-day standoff in 2017. Singh said this road would be completed by March 2019.
The Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie road in Ladakh is expected to be completed by next year, he said. This road measures 250km.
Singh said India is aiming to match infrastructure on the Chinese side of the border by 2024-25. “Projects are being monitored by the highest levels of the government. We are course to be on a par with China on the infrastructure front,” he added.
Apart from the 61 roads being built by BRO, the Central Public Works Department (CPWD) is currently engaged in the construction of 12 strategic roads along the Chinese border. The 73 roads measure a total of 4,643km.
The government is also set to clear the construction of 44 more “strategically important roads” along the India-China Border in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Jammu and Kashmir, Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh, according to the CPWD’s annual report for 2018-19. Building these roads is expected to cost around Rs 21,040 crore, the report says.
The detailed project reports for these roads, aimed at swifter mobilisation of troops, are before the Cabinet Committee on Security for approval. The construction work is expected to be split between BRO and CPWD.
“Infrastructure development along the northern borders is improving. Renewed efforts are being made to complete projects on time. Things have been delayed but are gathering pace now,”” said Lieutenant General SL Narasimhan (retd), who commanded a corps in the North-east and is currently a member of the National Security Advisory Board.