ITANAGAR ( By Pradeep Kumar )– With Indo-China border tension refusing to die down since early May last it escalated after the bloodiest border row with China in 45 years that had left at least 20 Indian soldiers dead, Central Government has reportedly directed the Border Roads Oraganisation (BRO) to speed up construction of ongoing roads to the border areas.
This aims at ensuring that a 1962 like situation is not repeated, a strategist said. India shares 3,488-km border with China including 1,126-km in Arunachal Pradesh making the state highly sensitive. The McMahon Line, part of 1914 Shimla Convention agreement signed between British India and Tibet, demarcates border between two Asian giants, known as Line of Actual Control (LAC), which China disputes.
Though, Indian Elite Marine Commandos (MARCOS) was deployed near Pangong Lake in Eastern Ladakh in Ladakh in November last, still a high level meeting reportedly took place in BRO’s Arunanak headquarters in Naharlagun on Monday chaired by chief engineer Brig AS Chonker to take important decisions.
The meeting attended by border road task force (BRTF) commander and other few senior engineers are likely to fly in a helicopter to some border areas in Upper Subansiri district on Tuesday to take stock of present status and give thrust to the ongoing process. However, neither the chief engineer could be contacted nor much could be known though a highly placed source confirmed about the confidential meeting saying he was not aware of the details.
The BRO had decided to go ahead with the important road infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh following a review meeting on July 17 last.
The official Twitter handle of Arunachal Pradesh Chief Secretary Naresh Kumar had tweeted, “A meeting was held via video link between BRO Director General Lt Gen Harpal Singh to ensure faster progress of infrastructure development projects in the state.”
Sources said all four BRO project CEs of Arunachal Pradesh were in attendance. The development comes after Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a review on progress of BRO infrastructure projects on July 7 last.
The meeting addressed issues of land acquisition, forest clearance, allocation of quarries, joint surveys. The CS had given had given assurance to DG of full cooperation of all departments to give fresh momentum to road construction. However, an official had termed the meeting crucial for the BRO to complete all road infrastructures in this border state within given deadline.
Keeping strategic importance of Arunachal Pradesh in mind, four BRO projects (Vartak, Arunank, Brahmank and Udayak), are committed to build and maintain indispensable road infrastructure necessary for the people and to maintain movement of troops along the LAC.
Project Vartak is handling strategically important Se La Tunnel. The tunnel once complete will give an all-weather link to the militarily significant town of Tawang. India and China share 1,126-km of the 3488-km long LAC.
The BRO in April last had completed 430-feet long crucial Daporijo Bridge over Subansiri River in Upper Subansiri district. The bridge is the sole link to 451 villages and approximately 3,000 security personnel deployed along the India-China border with disputed areas of Asaphila and Maza under it.
However, national media in June last had reported that 32 roads will be built along the India-China border under phase-II of India-China Border Roads (ICBR) project and the Centre had asked concerned officials to accelerate the construction works.
It was discussed during a meeting led by MoHA’s additional secretary (border management) BR Sharma and attended by officials of the BRO, Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), Indian Army and Central Public Works Department (CPWD).
The decision to ramp up road construction comes at a time when Indian troops are locked in a bitter standoff with the Chinese army over the construction of a road on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control in Eastern Ladakh.
However, New Delhi mandarins had decided in February 2019 to complete 61 strategic roads on China border by 2022, Hinudustan Times had reported.
The BRO chief Lt. Genl Harpal Singh had said 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 3,417-km, of which 2,350-km has been completed.
Though it is a fact that lack of road to border areas was one of the main factors for defeat of the Indian Army during month-long Indo-China War in 1962 before the Chinese Army (People’s Liberation of Army) declaring ceasefire on 20.11.62 and withdrawing to its claimed LAC, but China’s Govt-backed Global Times in an editorial had given a veiled threat to its trans-Himalayan neighbor immediately after the Ladkah standoff.
But, Prakash Gupta in Swarajya on 06.07.20 had written: “India’s improving infrastructure could be one of the reasons behind China’s aggressive posture along the LAC in Ladakh.