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India’s push to build roads, tunnels, bridges along its China border, ET Infra


<p>In its Union Budget for FY 2022-23, the Finance Ministry increased the capital outlay for the Border Roads Organisation, by a record 40%.</p>
In its Union Budget for FY 2022-23, the Finance Ministry increased the capital outlay for the Border Roads Organisation, by a record 40%.

Union Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar recently revealed that there has been a fourfold increase in India’s expenditure on border infrastructure since 2014. This is not surprising. Given the Indian military’s flare-ups and skirmishes with Chinese forces in the regions of Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh, India had to launch projects to boost the security of its northern border.

In September 2023, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated over 90 infrastructure projects in eleven states and union territories situated along India’s long border with China. All these projects are being executed by the Border Roads Organization. Their cost has been estimated to be Rs. 2900 crore.

These infrastructure projects consist of bridges, roads and tunnels which will serve both civilian and military activities and requirements. The government’s thinking is that in times of war, this infrastructure will facilitate rapid and efficient movements of troops, heavy defence equipment, artillery and other supplies, and in times of peace, it will serve as an engine of growth, bringing trade and tourism to the region that had hitherto been deficient in infrastructure.

India has fast-tracked several border infrastructure projects after the Galwan conflict with China in 2020. This conflict made the government realise that the infrastructure on the Indian side of the border was deficient compared to the infrastructure on the Chinese side. The Border Roads Organisation was given the task of building critical infrastructure in both the western sector of the LAC in Eastern Ladakh and in the eastern sector of the LAC in Arunachal Pradesh.

The projects in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh have led to a vast improvement in India’s border infrastructure and military capacity along the China border.

In January 2023, General Manoj Pande, chief of army staff, informed that since 2020, around Rs 1300 crores had been spent in Ladakh to take care of infrastructure and habitat requirements, and that the habitat for nearly 55,000 troops and storage facilities for 400 guns have been developed in Ladakh.

In its Union Budget for FY 2022-23, the Finance Ministry increased the capital outlay for the Border Roads Organisation, by a record 40%, to Rs 3,500 crore as compared to Rs 2,500 crore in FY 2021-22. In 2021, the BRO executed a record number of infrastructure projects, most of these projects were along the China border and were at very high altitudes and in extreme weather conditions.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated 102 roads and bridges at various places in the North-Western and Eastern States of the country. Among the infrastructure projects inaugurated there was the world’s highest motorable road at Umling La, built at 19,024 feet. The cost of these projects has been estimated at Rs. 2,229 crores.

In Arunachal Pradesh, progress is being made in the construction of the Arunachal Frontier Highway, which will improve access along the eastern sector of the LAC. Several tunnel projects are also planned in Arunachal Pradesh, among these there is the Sela tunnel, which will provide the Indian army quick access to forward positions in the Tawang sector.

The lion’s share of the funds for building road infrastructure in the North East went to Arunachal Pradesh in 2022, when the Modi government sanctioned Rs. 44,000 crore for infrastructure in the state. Part of the funds will be used for the two-laning of the Frontier Highway, which is essential for safeguarding the Indo-China-Myanmar border and controlling migration from border areas while improving the tourism infrastructure in the state.

The roads, tunnels, bridges and habitats that India has built in the last three years will play a critical role during tensions and skirmishes with China. However, India has to complete several more such infrastructure projects to achieve parity with the infrastructure on the Chinese side.

  • Published On Oct 3, 2023 at 09:46 PM IST

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