Border roads to match China, India race to build bridges | Asia Pacific


Lijn Elias turned the excavator’s hydraulic arm to push a huge boulder down into a cloud of dust, clearing another bit of land for a strategic highway that near the Indo-China border Is building soon.

The construction site near the Hamlet of Chilling in the Ladakh region is about 250 kilometers (150 mi) west of the area where the Indian and Chinese forces are locked in the most serious confrontation in nearly 50 years.

But when ready, the road will provide only year-round access to large parts of Ladakh, including the border area. This would be some way to bring India on par with China, which has roads and helipads along its border.

“It will be a lot easier for the military after the road is over,” said Elias, with his face in fine stone dust and parts of a khaki uniform.

The impasse in the far western Himalayan region turned into a bloody hand-to-hand collision in June, killing 20 Indian soldiers and causing an unspecified number of casualties to China. In 1962, Asian veterans fought a brief but bloody border war.

Officials said the 283-kilometer (176 mi) long Nimmu-Padam-Dwar (NPD) highway, where Elias is working, is expected to be completed in three years. It underscores India’s efforts, which have been redefined following the latest tensions, to develop critical infrastructure – roads, tunnels, bridges and airspace – with a 3,500 km (2,170 mi) border with China Can go

The road will be connected with an 8.8 km (5.5 mi) tunnel, which Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate in the coming weeks, which will open the snowy deserts of Ladakh – which crosses the borders of Tibet – in India. Administered in the rest of the year.

The two main highways connect Ladakh to the rest of India, but they remain closed for at least four months every winter. During these months, immediate supplies are made by air to Ladakh.

With thousands of its troops at large on the border and no sign of a retreat, India is now working hard to blast through the Himalayas and destroy its path.

Indian Defense Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament this month, “The government has doubled the budget for infrastructure work on China’s border. We will not back down from taking any major and strict steps in the interest of our country.”

Indian officials said that rampant construction has become a thorny issue for China this summer. But China built its infrastructure in the region years ago, and should be matched.

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry said, “China does not recognize the so-called ‘Ladakh Union Territory’ illegally established by India and opposes the creation of infrastructure in the border area.” It added that according to recent consensus by both sides, neither party should take any action that complicates the situation in the border area.

Ladakh was excluded from Indian-administered Kashmir last August after New Delhi snatched the limited autonomy of the Muslim-dominated Himalayan region.

China’s Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Frenzied construction has become a thorny issue for China earlier this year, complaining that Indian activity in the mountains was unstable. [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

Matter of hours

China’s network of roads and railways, logistics depots and helipads means it can move troops in just a few hours, said Raj Rajeshwari Pillai Rajagopalan, an eminent from the New Delhi think-tank Observer Research Foundation.

He said it would take a few days for India to reconcile those deployments.

Rajagopalan said, “The creation of infrastructure by China is not only aimed at quick deployment of forces, but also to maintain them for a relatively long time.”

In 1999, India’s NPD project stepped up at a spectacular pace to work a few years ago, said NK Jain, a commander of the state-run Border Roads Organization (BRO).

Since then, the BRO has built about 100 kilometers of the NPD project, and 11 of the 15 major bridges on the route. “In the last two years, our work is happening at a double speed,” said Jain.

New drilling machines that push dynamite and stick deep and fast into hard rock to blow them up have improved construction speed, B. Kishan, a BRO executive engineer overseeing the project near Chilling.

On a recent afternoon, dozens of workers removed debris from a fresh blast in the road. A few kilometers away, another group was uprooted under excavation as explosives proceeded to evacuate the land for another section of the highway.

Kishore said that work will continue during the bitter winter, when temperatures drop below minus 40 degrees (minus 40 Fahrenheit) and winds at altitudes above 11,000 feet (3,300 meters) make road construction even more challenging. She makes it.

The government has identified 73 strategically important roads along China’s border, 61 of which are along the BRO, running over 3,300 km (2,000 mi). A parliamentary committee report in March stated that 75 per cent of the work under the BRO had been completed.

An Indian official said that the entire network of roads would cut down travel time between major Indian military bases, thereby mobilizing troops and easing patrolling in some of the forward areas.

“It will also cause less expenditure for the forces,” the official said.

“We will have a better chance of catching the Chinese.”

In recent months, one of India’s largest military logistics exercises in years has brought large quantities of ammunition, equipment, fuel, winter supplies and food to Ladakh.

[Work will continue through the bitter winter, when temperatures drop to below minus 40 Celsius [Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

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