After Pakistan, China is creating a dispute at the border with India as if it was part of a “mission”, said Defence Minister Rajnath Singh today amid the now five-month-long standoff between Chinese and Indian armies in eastern Ladakh.
The defence minister, speaking via video conference after inaugurating 44 bridges, said India was not only facing the situation along the frontiers resolutely but also bringing in major development including in border areas.
“You are well aware of the conditions created along our northern and eastern borders. First it was Pakistan, and now also China, as if a border dispute is being created under a mission. We have a border of about 7,000 km with these countries where the tension continues,” Singh said.
The defence minister today inaugurated the bridges built in strategically key areas of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir.
A majority of these bridges will significantly improve movement of troops in areas along the border with China in Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh sectors, officials said. This follows the instruction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expedite the project of the Border Road Organisation (BRO) to build an underground passage to Ladakh.
Besides, the defence minister laid the foundation stone for Nechiphu Tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh. This 450 m long tunnel would ensure all-weather connectivity across Nechiphu pass.
India and China have held a series of diplomatic and military talks to resolve the border standoff. However, no breakthrough has been achieved to defuse the situation. China simply does not seem to be interested in resolving the dispute, Sirf News had reported earlier in the day.
Singh said the country was both resolutely facing the enemy and bringing about historical changes in all sectors of development — in the challenging times of Covid-19 and despite the border tensions and disputes caused by Pakistan and China.
The bridges number 10 in Jammu and Kashmir, eight in Ladakh, two in Himachal Pradesh, four each in Punjab and Sikkim and eight each in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh.
In his address, Singh complimented the BRO for its achievements in improving infrastructure in border areas and said that dedication of 44 bridges in one go in itself was a record. He said the annual budget of BRO that varied from Rs 3,300 crore to Rs 4,600 crore in years between 2008 and 2016, saw a substantial rise and is pegged at over Rs 11,000 crore in 2020-21. “There is no reduction of this budget despite Covid-19,” he said
Singh said construction of the bridges would benefit both the civilian population as well as the military in the areas.
“Our armed forces personnel are deployed in large numbers in areas where transport is not available throughout the year,” he said, noting improvement in border infrastructure will significantly help armed forces.
“These roads are not only for strategic needs, but they also reflect equal participation of all stakeholders in the development of the nation,” Singh said.
The defence minister praised the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for working tirelessly even during the coronavirus-triggered lockdown period.
The defence ministry said despite unprecedented snowfall breaking a 60-year record, all strategic passes and roads were cleared for traffic about one month before their average yearly opening dates. “I am happy to know that over 2,200 km of roads have been cut by the BRO during the last two years, using the latest technologies, and state-of-the-art equipment. Also, surfacing was carried out on about 4200 km of roads,” he added.
Amid the border standoff with China, India is expediting work on several key projects including on a strategic road linking Darcha in Himachal Pradesh with Ladakh that will criss-cross a number of high-altitude snow-bound passes.
The nearly 290 km long road will be crucial for the movement of troops and heavy weaponry into the frontier bases of the Ladakh region and will provide a crucial link to the Kargil region.