Recently two strategic bridges were inaugurated in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, opening up another way in the area to the Line of Actual Control. Like the two, there are close to 150 strategic bridges being constructed in the state to provide quick mobility to troops and supplies towards the LAC and act as alternative routes in case one gets destroyed during a conflict.
The government does not allow “any interference” with its right to undertake improvement of infrastructure within the Indian territory, Union Minister V K Singh said today, dismissing Chinese criticism on India undertaking construction projects near the LAC.
In a written reply to queries in the Rajya Sabha, the minister also said that India and China reviewed the situation in all sectors of the border during the 10th round of talks on boundry issues last month.
The two sides agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is an important prerequisite for sustained growth of bilateral relations, he said.
Militaries of both the countries recently witnessed a stand-off at the Dokalam that lasted for more than two months.
Bridges are an important requirement of Arunachal, because the area is prevalent with rivers, including the Brahmaputra tributaries, besides nallahs.
Due to monsoon and flash floods, most of the state’s border regions are cut off. These bridges will ensure all-year connectivity to the strategic roads located along the LAC in the state. A similar border infrastructure for better connectivity is also being done in the neighbouring state of Sikkim, following the Doklam standoff.
The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has also approved the construction of a standalone road project from Marsimik La to Hot Spring. Marsimik La in Ladakh is about 20 km from the northwest tip of Pangong lake.
In August, China warned that such a development would only worsen the then stand-off in Dokalam.
Singh, Minister of State in the External Affairs Ministry, said the spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry made statements critical of construction of such infrastructure by Indian near the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“The government gives careful and specific attention to the improvement of infrastructure for the development of border areas in order to facilitate economic development of these areas as also meet India’s strategic and security requirements,” Singh said.
The minister said that government does not allow “any interference” with the right to undertake such improvement within the Indian territory and keeps a constant watch on all developments having a bearing on India’s security and takes all necessary measures to safeguard it.
Singh noted that the tenth round of the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) was held in Beijing. The two delegations comprised diplomatic and military officials from each side.
“The talks were held in a constructive and forward-looking manner. Both sides reviewed the situation in all sectors of India-China border and agreed that maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the border areas is an important prerequisite for sustained growth of bilateral relations,” Singh said.
WMCC was established in 2012 as institutional mechanism for consultation and coordination for the maintenance of peace and tranquillity in the India-China border areas.
MOST BRIDGES IN STATE
The Border Roads Organisation (BRO), under the Defence Ministry, is constructing 410 bridges of strategic importance for stronger connectivity to the 3440- km long LAC from Ladakh to Arunachal. Arunachal has the most number of bridges-144 out of 410- due to its rivers and problems of monsoon.
Out of 144, 75 are under construction and will be completed by 2020. Out of 75, about seven located at Lower Dibang Valley and Lohit districts districts are nearing completion.
Minister of State for Defence Subhash Bhamre inaugurated the 300m-long Deopani Bridge on December 12. It is located over the Deopani River in Ro-ing-Hunli road and links Lower Dibang Valley with Upper Dibang Valley and Assam. The bridge is important because during monsoon the two districts are cut off from each other. It will also connect further north to Mipi and Dembuen at the LAC.
The second bridge inaugurated by Bhamre is the Injupani Bridge between Roing and Paya in the Lower Dibang Valley. South of Roing is the 9.15 kmlong Dhola Sadiya Bridge constructed across Lohit River.
The bridge which is on the Tinsukia (Assam)- Roing road was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May. “Merely having the Dhola Sadiya bridge for connectivity in the region was not enough, therefore the Deopani Bridge among others had to be constructed,” explained the official. Located west of the DeopaniBridge is Pasighat in Arunachal’s East Siang district.
Even western Arunachal’s Tawang district has about 15 bridges under construction from Balipara in Assam up to Tawang.
Along the remaining LAC
Arunachal’s neighbouring state, Sikkim, has about 40 bridges under construction. “The infrastructure development here has taken off at a fast pace in the past few months. Work is also going on at a strategic location in North Sikkim and nearby areas,” said another official
In Jammu and Kashmir there are about 100 bridges under construction, besides 25 and 55 in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. “Out of the 410 bridges having a length of 22 km, 150 are under construction and we are completing 3 km length of bridges every year,” said an official.
All of them are two-laned road bridges and of class 70, meaning it can bear very heavy loads, including of tanks. Its these bridges connected with the strategic roads leading to the LAC that ensure the connectivity and movement of forces in a large strength and that too on schedule. The multiplicity will also help confuse the enemy of routes being taken by the troops.