Arunachal: India To Build Six New Border Roads To Improve Connectivity On Frontier With China

Swarajya Staff

Oct 22, 2022, 11:06 AM | Updated 11:06 AM IST

Development of border infrastructure in Arunachal. (Pema Khandu/Twitter)
Development of border infrastructure in Arunachal. (Pema Khandu/Twitter)
  • The proposal comes amid the rapid development of infrastructure by China in the part of Tibet opposite Arunachal Pradesh.
  • In an ongoing effort to improve connectivity on the frontier with China, the Narendra Modi government has proposed the construction of six new roads stretching over 2,178 kilometres in Arunachal Pradesh.

    The development comes amid heightened tensions along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) since May 2020, when China deployed a large number of troops and heavy equipment to change the status quo in eastern Ladakh.

    India had made counter deployments in response, leading to a tense military standoff. While India and China have disengaged from all the friction points that emerged in 2020, the two sides continue to retain a large number of troops and equipment in depth areas.

    Although India had already improved the pace of construction of border roads after 2014, the standoffs with China in Doklam and eastern Ladakh have induced urgency in the spending on border infrastructure.

    India has built 2,088 km of roads in areas bordering China in the last five years at an expenditure of Rs 15,477 crore, Minister of State for Defence Ajay Bhatt revealed in July this year.

    Arunachal currently has two east-west road corridors—

    • National Highway (NH) 15, which runs along foothills near the state border with Assam,

    • NH-13/NH-125, which is being built midway across the state.

    While NH-15 has been developed, NH-13/NH-125, also called Trans Arunachal Highway, is under construction. A 1,458-kilometer-long stretch of the 1,540 km Trans Arunachal highway is complete.

    A third highway, running along the border with China across the length of the state, has been proposed for construction. The Detailed Project Report for the 1,859 km Frontier Highway is being prepared.

    The six new road corridors proposed by the government will improve connectivity between these three highways.

    The six stretches proposed by the center "includes Itakhola-Seijosa-Pakke Kessand-Seppa Chayangtajo-Sanggram-Parsi Parlo (391 km), Kanubari-Longding (404 km), Akajan-Pango Jorging (398 km), Gogamukh Tahila Tato (285 km), Thelamara-Tawang-Nelia (border) 402km and Pasighat Bishing (298 km)," the Economic Times said in its report.

    The proposal comes amid a rapid development of infrastructure by China in the part of Tibet opposite Arunachal Pradesh.

    China's Infrastructure Buildup Opposite Arunachal

    The 1,600-km long Sichuan-Tibet rail line will link Lhasa on the Tibetan Plateau with Chengdu in central Sichuan. In June 2021, China had opened the 435-km-long section of the line between Lhasa and Nyingchi.

    Nyingchi, a town opposite India's Tuting sector, in the Upper Siang district of Arunachal, is only 40 km away from the border. The Nyingchi-Lhasa rail line itself runs much closer to the border than that at some points.

    The 52nd and 53rd Mountain Infantry Brigades of the CCP's People's Liberation Army are based in the larger Nyingchi Prefecture.

    China has also built a 250-kilometre-long highway linking Nyingchi with Lhasa, which, like the Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line, runs close to Arunachal.

    Construction of the Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line, nearly 75 per cent of which is either over bridges or under tunnels, began in 2015, and track laying was completed over five years, in December 2020, at a cost of $4.8 billion.

    The remaining 1,100-km long section of the line, a part (Chengdu-Ya’an section) of which is already complete, is expected to be ready by 2030. The headquarter of China’s Western Theatre Command, which is responsible for the frontier with India from Arunachal to Ladakh, is located in Chengdu.

    The Lhasa-Nyingchi rail line project has received consistent attention from the top echelons of the CCP in the past, including President Xi Jinping himself, who linked it to ‘border stability’ as recently as November 2020, during the standoff with India in Ladakh.

    Although the Chinese state media links the Sichuan-Tibet rail line project to economic development in Tibet, the CCP apparat has pointed out that it will act as a “fast track” for the “delivery of strategic materials" to Tibet "if a scenario of a crisis happens at the border".

    Dueing his visit to Tibet in July 2021, the Chinese President visited the Nyingchi railway station to inspect the Sichuan-Tibet railway line, and then took a train to Lhasa.

    Jinping's inspection of the project, in the middle of a tense border standoff with India, has brought focus back on this aspect of infrastructure development in Tibet.

    The construction of rail lines and highways on the Tibetan Plateau line will not only ease the movement of troops within China’s Western Theatre Command but also enable the PLA to bring trainloads of troops and equipment from other theatres in a very short time, a scenario that can’t be ruled out after China’s massive mobilisation along LAC in eastern Ladakh in 2020.

    Also Read:

    -Tibet: Xi Jinping Tours Border Areas Close To Arunachal Before His First Visit To Lhasa Eight Years After Taking Over As President

    -China’s Two New Rail Lines Near Indian Border Will Help It Deploy Troops Rapidly Near Ladakh And Arunachal, Smoothen Logistics For PLA

    -India Has Built 2,088 Km Of Roads Along China Border In Last Five Years With An Expenditure Of Rs 15,477 Crore

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