India's push to build, upgrade infrastructure along LAC behind China's aggression
New Delhi: The reasons behind recent violent faceoff between the troops of India and China at the Galwan Valley in east Ladakh on June 15 night, wherein 20 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives and scores were injured, lies in Indian government's thrust on developing infrastructure along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) leaving behind the erstwhile policy of past regimes.
After the Sino-India war in 1962, the past governments till the 1990s failed to give attention to having good roads along 3500 km long border with China. Finally, in 2005, the Manmohan Singh-led Congress party government decided to build more than 70 roads of strategic importance along the Chinese border.
In almost two decades, only a few roads could be built during this period. The quality of many of these roads was so poor that these roads were not able to carry loads of military weapons like howitzer cannons and Multiple-Launch Rocket Systems.
Now, the situation is changing and India along the Line of Actual Control with the rapid construction of strong roads that can be used in all weather conditions besides bearing the burden of heavy weapons and armoured vehicles.
Among the reasons behind China's recent provocation lies the building up of these strong Indian roads in 2020. These roads have facilitated the Indian Army to easily patrol the areas bordering the eastern part of Ladakh and keep an eye on all the actions of China, which has been opposing these constructions.
What we are doing today was accomplished by China in the 1950s. China appears to have also understood that India in a new avatar will not allow any of its tricks to succeed. Therefore, China's restlessness has increased with India's strong infrastructure along the LAC.
When the BJP-led NDA government came to power for the first time in 2014, one of the initial decisions taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to approve the construction of roads by the Border Roads Organization (BRO) within 100 km radius of the LAC. This was a path-breaking decision as it put an end to the bureaucracy hindrance. Now, about 75 percent of these important roads have been completed.
Later in the year 2017, the Central government further empowered the BRO and its Director-General i.e. DG of BRO got more powers. This gave further push to the construction activities and as many as 66 roads near the India-China border were cleared. Under new rules, the Director-General of BRO was given the financial rights to spend up to Rs 100 crore. Earlier, any proposal for road construction had to be passed by the Ministry of Defence.
Not only this, but the government also removed bureaucratic hindrance in the construction of security-related infrastructure along the border like Border outposts, Floodlights, and walls. Similarly, the needs of paramilitary security forces were also met on the same lines.
So far, China believed that India would not be able to build roads along the border at such a rapid pace as it was convinced this required high technical efficiency, and India was not capable of that but was proved wrong. From 2017, heavy machinery was airlifted in the region to build these roads. In 2019, the help of powerful helicopters like Chinook was also taken for this.
Between 2008 and 2017, cutting and formating of about 230 km of roads along the India-China border were done annually, but this has now been increased to 470 km per year between 2017 and 2020. Similarly, between 2008 and 2017, the speed of surfacing of roads was 170 kilometers per year, but it has been increased to 380 kilometers per year between 2017 and 2020.
Construction of tunnels also needed to connect the hilly roads. Surprisingly, only one such tunnel was constructed between 2008 and 2014, while 6 tunnels have been made from 2014 to 2020. The construction of about 19 tunnels is reportedly under progress.
Similarly, between 2008 and 2014, 7270 meters long bridges were built, while 14450 meters of bridges were built between 2014 and 2020. In the period between 2008 and 2014, roads of 3610 kms were constructed on the border while 4764 km long roads were built between 2014 and 2020.
Since this mammoth construction works required a massive budget, the government ensured that it was also taken care of. Between 2008 and 2016, the construction of these roads cost between Rs 3300 crore and Rs 4600 crore. But this budget increased to Rs 5450 crores in the financial year 2017-18, Rs 6700 crores in 2018-19, Rs 8050 crores in 2019-20, and Rs 11800 crores in the fiscal year 2020-21.
For about 50 years, the construction of those roads which were neglected has now been not taken care of in merely 4 to 5 years along the LAC. China seems to have expected the replication of the Indian blunder of 1962, but the rapid pace of construction of these roads have shocked it.