China’s easy road access up to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has India worried. The government has now decided to put the pace of construction of certain strategic roads along the international border between the two countries on a war-footing.
On Tuesday, defence minister Manohar Parrikar said in Parliament that the deadlines of 39 strategic Indo-China border roads have been revised and will be completed in the next three years.
Of these 39, five roads will be completed in 2016 itself, eight roads in 2017, 12 roads in 2018, eight roads in 2019 and six in 2020. The LAC is the effective border between India and China.
Altogether 73 roads are identified as “strategic” as far as the Indo-China border is concerned. Out of this, 61 roads with a length of 3,417 km entrusted to the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) were planned to be completed by 2012, but out of which only 22 roads of length 708 km have been completed. Lack of road connectivity towards the LAC has been part of a conscious government policy of not developing the borders with China so as to create a buffer area, but it proved to be a handicap as in the case of the 6.9-magnitude Sikkim earthquake of September 2011, when it took days before relief could reach the quake-affected regions in northern Sikkim.
To override legal roadblocks like land acquisition, forest and wildlife clearance and so on, the Indian states bordering China — Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh — have constituted the empowered committees to resolve issues related to land acquisition, forest and wildlife clearance, etc. The environment minister has also okayed the diversion of forest land required for construction and widening of roads entrusted to BRO in areas falling within 100 km aerial distance from the LAC.
Two years back, the then Arunachal Pradesh governor, Lt Gen (Rtd) Nirbhay Sharma had, in a report to the PMO, said that for most of the rugged and difficult terrain along the Indo-China border in Arunachal, China has built roads that almost touch the LAC, while most of the Indian road-heads peter off at least about 50-70 km from the LAC. He had even submitted photographs comparing both sides of the LAC.
Mr Sharma had also sought PMO’s direct involvement in road construction. “There is perhaps a case for an integrated road development agency for the state to ensure better coordination and efficiency. The agency may be monitored by PMO directly.”
In May, China vastly reorganised its military by raising the level of the Tibet Military Command bringing it directly under the command of the People’s Liberation Army ground forces. This move is looked upon by experts as a measure to buttress its borders with India and to keep troops skilled in high-altitude warfare in the state ready for quick deployment and combat.
Before this, China’s western border with India was under Xinjiang’s command while the eastern stretch was under the military region responsible for the eastern sector of the border.
A recent Pentagon report had said: “India’s nuclear force is an additional driver behind China’s nuclear force modernisation”. Deadrin Senat Jersey