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Govt puts China border road in fast lane

In a show of urgency prompted by aggressive Chinese military activity along the India-China border...

Written by Pranab Dhal Samanta | New Delhi |
March 1, 2008 11:56:22 pm

In a show of urgency prompted by aggressive Chinese military activity along the India-China border, the Government has decided to withdraw the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) from road projects within the country and ordered immediate diversion of these resources to build over 1,100 km roads along the China border.

It’s learnt that the Defence Ministry has written to the Ministry of Road & Transport informing that it will have to immediately withdraw the BRO from 42 projects to which it was initially committed. As for ongoing projects nearing completion, the BRO has been asked to wrap them up within a year. This includes the 293-km road through Naxal-dominated area between Andhra Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.

The decision, sources said, came after detailed meetings of the Cabinet Committee on Security on the situation along the India-China border. The China Study Group comprising secretaries from the ministries of Home, External Affairs and Defence besides the heads of R&AW and the Intelligence Bureau have recommended that roads have to be built at a feverish pace given the headstart China has on border infrastructure.

India plans to build over 1,100 km, largely in Arunachal Pradesh, over the next couple of years. The principal objective, the sources said, was to drastically cut down time for troops to move to forward posts and increase mobility along sensitive portions of the border. In the long-term, the aim is to integrate this with the massive civilian road network envisaged in the North-East.

Earlier, BRO was to carry out nearly 2,000 km construction in the North-East under the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme. However, concerned over repeated transgressions and recent protests by Bejing on Indian troops in Sikkim and PM’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh, the Government has decided that BRO should focus only on border roads in China and not be involved in construction activity within the North-East.

As a result, BRO will pull out of commitments to construct some 1,200 km within the North-East and shift focus to the India-China border. The Ministry of Road & Transport will now have to find private players or depend on state PWDs to execute these works.

Along with roads, the Government has decided to revive four IAF bases in Arunachal Pradesh — Vijaynagar, Mechuka, Tuting and Passighat. These along with the border road network are expected to bolster supply lines and ensure greater and more frequent access to far-flung border areas which are under dispute.

While negotiations continued on a border settlement between both countries, the sources said, India felt alarmed by frequent Chinese claims being made locally along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim. Much of this can be countered if Indian increases the frequency at which it patrols these areas and in that context, road connectivity to border outposts is vital.

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