As China Threat Looms, India's Border Road Construction Sees Massive Uptick

by Ujjawal Mishra - Jul 26, 2022 05:36 PM +05:30 IST
As China Threat Looms, India's Border Road Construction Sees Massive UptickRoad construction in border areas. (Representative Image/@EvClimateChange/Twitter)

India has built 2,088 km of roads in areas bordering China in the last five years, with an expenditure of Rs 15,477 crore.

The details were provided by Union Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt in the Lok Sabha.

  • On the Pakistan border, Rs 4,242.38 crore was spent to construct 1,336.09 km of roads.

  • Myanmar border saw an expenditure of Rs 882.52 crore for 151.15 km of roads.

  • Bangladesh border saw lesser infrastructural development, as 19.25 km of roads were constructed for Rs 165.45 crore.

China is in focus, as the need for greater military capability and connectivity was felt during the June 2020 clashes in Galwan valley and the subsequent stalemate at multiple locations.

  • China recently built a bridge over Pangong Lake, in Indian territory under its occupation since 1958.

  • It plans to construct a new highway along the LAC with India.

  • Each side has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive sector.

  • In its 2022-23 budget, the government increased the capital outlay for BRO (Border Roads Organisation) by 40 per cent to Rs 3,500 crore.

BRO on mission mode: BRO's performance has improved over the last few years.

  • This is despite the Chinese aggression in eastern Ladakh and a raging Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

  • Major reforms, including the transfer of control of the organisation to the Defence Ministry, have helped BRO improve the pace of construction of border roads.

  • BRO has also seen a spike in its budget, which, after being in the range of Rs 3,300 crore to Rs 4,600 crore between 2008 and 2016, reached Rs 8,050 crore in FY 2019-2020.

Unrelenting China: Infrastructure development continues unabated on the Chinese side.

  • China is building new villages along the frontier in Tibet to assert its claims along the LAC. It has already developed 628 villages, some in territory claimed by India and Bhutan.

  • Besides spending billions on infrastructure development in remote border areas of Tibet, China has used economic incentives, including annual subsidies, to get reluctant Tibetans to move to border villages.

  • The population of border areas has grown by 10.5 per cent, Wu Yingjie, the Communist Party secretary for Tibet, revealed last year.

Indian response: The centre has notified amendments to environmental impact assessment rules. Highway projects related to defence and of strategic importance within 100 km of the LAC or the border are exempted from environmental clearance requirement.

  • The government could soon set up a dedicated agency for the management of infrastructure along India's borders, as per reports.

  • Called the Border Infrastructure Management Authority (BIMA), it will be responsible for the development of road, rail, water, power, and communications infrastructure along the borders, including the frontier with Tibet.

  • The Vibrant Villages Programme was also announced in the 2022-23 budget as a response to China's border consolidation project.

  • India aims to promote tourism in border areas, which will significantly boost investments as well as initiate reverse migration to these far-flung reaches.

Bottomline: Experts have indicated the possibility of a limited conflict in the border areas between India and China in the future. If that happens, rapid military mobilisation will be key. India's infrastructural development should be seen in that light.

Ujjawal Mishra is editorial intern at Swarajya. He tweets @Ujjawal1Mishra.
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