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Coming soon: Roads Along Chinese Border

Josy Joseph Tuesday, May 09, 2006 02:12 IST

Officials insist the project does not reflect change in Sino-Indian relations

NEW DELHI: Observers and officials say it is coming too late. But India is finally kicking off a massive programme to build roads and airstrips along its entire border with China after decades of neglect.

Sources, on the condition of anonymity, told DNA that the Border Road Organisation personnel are set to begin a detailed survey of India's road network along the Chinese border, kicking off the ambitious programme to improve connectivity along the largely peaceful, but unresolved border.

The survey would mark the beginning of the project, estimated to cost almost Rs 2000 crores. Besides 36 roads, it would also see the government reviving at least three airstrips along the China border that were built during World War II and have been defunct ever since.

The entire effort by the government would reverse several decades of neglect for the China border. "We are only responding to massive infrastructure development on the Chinese side of the border. The Chinese have developed a series of airfields along the border from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh. They are building railroad to Lhasa and further to Zigatse, the second largest city in Tibet after Lhasa," says strategic analyst Brahma Chellany.

"Once the railroad to Lhasa and Zigaste is complete, China will be in a position to rapidly deploy troops, and they can spring a nasty surprise on India. They would be able to move tens of thousands of troops to the border. What we are doing is a belated, modest response to what China has already done, or is doing," Chellany adds.

Sources told DNA that as a first step, the government has released Rs 2 crores to BRO to begin the survey of the first of the two-phased roads. The road project has been split into two phases. In the first phase, 11 roads would be built, of which four are through national parks which would require clearance from the Ministry of Environment and Forest.

The entire project, cleared by the Cabinet Committee on Security a few months back, would result in the renovation, improvement and construction of 36 roads along the Sino-Indian border, and revival of WW II airstrips.

Officials are tightlipped about further details. However, they are vehemently asserting that the entire project has nothing to do with China, nor does it reflect tension, or even any change in Sino-Indian relations, which has been steadily improving in recent times.

It is an effort to "bring up our border infrastructure to the modern levels," a senior official said.

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