New Delhi: Narendra Modi government plans to expand the motorized network along the Indo-China border by building two information roads, one connecting Pooh in Himachal Pradesh to Chumar in Ladakh and the other connecting Harsil in Ladakh. Uttarakhand in Karcham in Himachal Pradesh.
It has also stepped up work on an alternative road under construction to Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO), where India’s highest airstrip is located, in eastern Ladakh.
The measures come amid the four-month standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Line of Real Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh.
The Border Roads Organization (BRO), which reports to the Ministry of Defense, will build all three roads.
The two new routes are not among 73 India-China Border Routes (ICBR) planned for rapid movement of troops and weapons, a project already underway.
Government sources told ThePrint that the two roads would be around 150 km in length and that construction would be a tedious task given it would involve cutting several passes.
The roads are expected to cost around Rs 2,500 to Rs 3,000 crore each.
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Intensify border mobility
It is understood that once built, the roads will prove to be major infrastructural assets along the Indo-China border. They will provide additional flexibility to the deployment of troops along the LAC and will also allow faster change of their locations.
At present, it takes almost 20 hours of driving to cover the 720 km long distance between Pooh and Chumar. Harsil and Karcham are separated by almost 450 km, a distance that takes over 16 hours to cover.
Pooh is a strategically important town located just 18 km by road from LAC, while a key military post can be found at Chumar along the LAC, south-east of Pangong Tso.
A road between these important sites would allow easier transfer of troops between Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh and greater LAC domination in this region.
Harsil and Karcham are approximately 52 km and 26 km from the border with China, respectively.
Focus on building an alternative route to DBO faster
A second senior government official told ThePrint that building the alternate route to DBO faster remains the government’s top priority.
This alternative route in eastern Ladakh will start from Sassoma along the Nubra River to the vital places of Sasser La and Gapshan before joining the existing route to BOD, it will be deep and far from the immediate domination of the Chinese. Sassoma is nearly 90 km from DBO.
Sasser La is located at a height of almost 18,000 feet even higher than Khardung La Pass while Gapshan is located in a valley which subsequently joins the existing DS-DBO road.
The existing Durbuk-Shyok-DBO road that literally runs alongside the LAC is 255 km long and is currently the only road to reach DBO. It has 47 decks on it.
The official said this alternative route would increase road space and allow more vehicles to circulate regularly and speed up military movements.
Part of this alternative route has already been completed. Sassoma at part of Sasser La has already been blacktopped and is a passable road. Sasser La forward is a mud track that should be blacktopped, the official added.
A third senior government official told ThePrint that this alternative route would be of enormous strategic importance, especially in the wake of the Chinese threat to the LAC.
In the event of an attack on the vital logistics supply route to DBO (the existing route), this route will be away from the enemy’s direct line of sight and delay the detection of troops and logistics movements, the official said. .
Also read:Army to add bite to LAC’s defense
Several road networks in eastern Ladakh, north-east
The BRO built several road networks and reinforced the existing road infrastructure connecting the advanced sites of Pangong Tso and others across eastern Ladakh.
Although there have been reports that it was the construction of specific roads in eastern Ladakh that angered the Chinese, leading to the current standoff, government sources said that further construction and the strengthening of existing infrastructure such as roads and bridges had been underway for some time.
At the same time, a quarter of the 32,000 BROs personnel are in Arunachal Pradesh to strengthen the road infrastructure there, which will not only help the civilian population but also move the army forward at a faster pace.
While the BRO was repeatedly questioned about the excessive delays in building the identified border roads, government officials said the pace had increased significantly in recent years.
Last year, the BRO built almost 10 bridges on the roads in eastern Ladakh alone.
As part of the India-China Border Roads (ICBR) program conceptualized in the late 1990s by the China Study Group and subsequently authorized by the Cabinet Committee on Construction Safety in 1999, a total of 73 roads measuring 4,643 km had to be built along the Chinese border. .
Of these, 61 strategically important roads were to be built by the BRO and 12 by the Central Department of Public Works.
According to data available with ThePrint, of the 61 roads spread across Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim BRO have completed 40 roads and another 12 will be completed by ‘by March 2021.
The BROs budget was almost stagnant at Rs 4000 crore between 2009 and 2015, before jumping to Rs 5400 crore in 2017-18. It has now reached Rs 11,000 crore for the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
Also read:India-China endgame in Ladakh looks costly unless Modi and Xi strike face-saving deal
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