News Brief

Centre Approves 1500-Km Arunachal Pradesh Frontier Highway Along LAC: Chief Minister Pema Khandu

V Bhagya Subhashini

Nov 30, 2022, 03:22 PM | Updated 03:23 PM IST

Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu.
  • The construction of the Arunachal Frontier Highway will give the military a significant boost in capacity.
  • It will help develop the enormous potential the region has, in the fields of tourism, horticulture, and agriculture.
  • The central government has recently approved a 1500-km two-lane Frontier Highway in Arunachal Pradesh.

    The highway, to be developed by the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways (MoRTH), is estimated to cost Rs 27,349 crore.

    As its name suggests, the road will run close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) or the frontier with China. It is seen as "one of India's biggest and toughest" road construction projects.

    The LAC is the demarcation that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory.

    Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said that, “very recently, MoRTH has approved sanction for the 1500 km Frontier Highway that would connect all the border areas of the state from east to west and interconnecting roads between the highways of about 1000 km”, reports Economic Times

    The development comes at a time when China has built over 600 border defense villages along the frontier with India in Tibet. Some of these villages have come up in Indian territory under Chinese occupation.

    The proposed route will start at Mago, which borders Bhutan, and continue through Tawang, Upper Subansiri, Tuting, Mechuka, Upper Siang, Debang Valley, Desali, Chaglagam, Kibithu, and Dong before coming to an end at Vijayanagar, which is close to the Myanmar border.

    Proposed Arunachal Frontier Highway Map     (Kiren Rijiju/Facebook)
    Proposed Arunachal Frontier Highway Map (Kiren Rijiju/Facebook)

    Speaking about the proposed highway, Khandu stated on Monday (28 November) that, “1962 was history and will never be repeated ever. In 1962, the scenario was very different. Infrastructure in the region was very poor. Despite that the Indian Army fought bravely and sacrificed thousands of lives to protect the motherland. But today, we are not what we were in 1962.” 

    The construction of the Arunachal Frontier Highway will give the military a significant boost in capacity, since it will make it easier and faster to deploy personnel and supplies to the border as and when they are required for induction and de-induction.

    All the border districts would be connected once these projects are finished, according to Khandu, who advised people to make future plans in line with the enormous potential these areas have in the fields of tourism, horticulture, and agriculture.

    With this project, Arunachal Pradesh will have three national highways — the Frontier Highway, East-West Industrial Corridor Highway, and the Trans-Arunachal Highway. 

    Arunachal Pradesh had received the lion's share of the work, totalling Rs 44,000 crore, of the 1.6 lakh crore in highway projects that had been announced by the centre for the Northeast earlier this month.

    Projects approved by the Centre. (Pema Khandu/Twitter)
    Projects approved by the Centre. (Pema Khandu/Twitter)

    Union Law and Justice Minister Kiren Rijiju promoted the idea of Frontier Highway in 2014, when he was Minister of State for Home Issues and Border Affairs.

    That same year, the Home Ministry initiated the project by asking a detailed project report from the MoRTH.

    The project was formerly opposed by China. 

    Faced with an aggressive China, India has undertaken a big infrastructure drive in the Northeast, with a particular emphasis on Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, accelerating work on a number of bridges capable of transporting heavy equipment to tunnels, highways, and feeder roads all the way up to the LAC.

    In an effort to keep up with the Chinese's rapid infrastructure development, a significant amount of specialised road and state-of-art tunnelling equipment is being deployed.

    A note earlier shared by the Chief Minister said the road would help in "safeguarding Indo-China-Myanmar border" and "control migration from border areas."

    Arunachal, with help from the Army, is also building model villages along the frontier with Tibet to reverse the outmigration from border areas.

    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 Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s People's Liberation Army (PLA) are based in the larger Nyingchi prefecture.

    China has also built a 250-km-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 Xi visited the Nyingchi railway station to inspect the Sichuan-Tibet railway line, and then took a train to Lhasa.

    Xi'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.

    V Bhagya Subhashini is a staff writer at Swarajya. She tracks infrastructure developments.

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