China way ahead on border infrastructure
First, India woke up to China's massive buildup of military infrastructure all along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) rather late in the day. And now, it's floundering to execute its own relatively modest plans to strategically counter the Chinese moves.
It was in early-2006 that the UPA government was jolted out of its slumber to give the go-ahead for the creation of infrastructure in all the three sectors — western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) — along the unresolved 4,056-km LAC with China.
But progress of the road construction and telecommunication links has been tardy, to say the least, since then. Only nine of the 73 roads earmarked for construction along the Sino-Indian border have been built till now, top-level sources said.
Of the 73 all-weather roads, 27 fall in Arunachal Pradesh, 19 in Uttarakhand, 14 in Jammu & Kashmir, seven in Himachal Pradesh and six in Sikkim. While 27 of these roads are being constructed under the aegis of the home ministry, 15 are with Border Roads Organisation (BRO). The remaining 12 are to be constructed by CPWD or state PWDs.
"The plan is to construct the 73 roads in a time-bound manner by 2012 to counter the rapid pace of military development in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). But there are huge delays due to pending mandatory clearances from the ministry of environment and forests as well as inadequate funding," said a source. While acknowledging environmental and geological concerns are important, the defence establishment holds national security concerns are equally, if not more, critical. "Suitable interventions and faster decision-making is required," added the source.
BRO, in particular, has been directed to complete construction of the roads stretching from Ladakh to Diphu La in Arunachal, amounting to 608-km at a cost of Rs 992 crore, by 2010 or so.
The infrastructure development is important to bolster India's troop mobility and logistics supply in the forward areas, especially since some existing roads simply stop dead 60 to 80 km from LAC.
"While Chinese soldiers can drive right till the border in their vehicles due to their superb roads, our soldiers have to sometimes trek 10-15 km to reach their border posts," said a senior official.
China, on its part, has built so many air, road and rail links along the LAC, especially in TAR, that it can amass a huge number of troops on the border for offensive operations in double-quick time compared to what was possible less than a decade ago.
China now has a 40,000-km road network in Tibet, apart from rail links like the 1,118-km one from Lhasa to Gormo in Qinghai province of mainland China.