Highlighting border infrastructure development despite China dispute is the Sela tunnel

Military affairs expert Lieutenant General Harpal Singh (retd), who oversaw crucial project phases as the head of the Border Roads Organization (BRO), said that the upcoming opening of the Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh, which will help boost the Indian Army’s posture near the China border, stands testament to the nation’s unwavering commitment to fortifying its border infrastructure, exemplifying a strategic imperative aimed at bolstering national security.

At a cost of ₹700 crore, the world’s longest twin-lane tunnel over 13,000 feet is slated to be officially opened by Prime Minister Narendra Modi shortly. It is located on the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang route.

With the completion of the Sela tunnel, the focus has shifted to India’s drive for border infrastructure to close the gap with China, which has accelerated the construction of its advanced territories. Modi lay the foundation stone for the tunnel in February 2019. Since May 2020, India and China have been engaged in a protracted military stalemate along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, and it still seems unlikely that the border dispute would be fully resolved by continuing talks.

According to Singh, “India has made notable strides in recent years in matching China’s expansive array of roads, tunnels, and other infrastructure undertakings, despite environmental, geographical, and geological hurdles.” After serving as the Army’s top engineer from 2018 to 2020, he resigned a year ago.

He continued, saying that while China’s border infrastructure is developing at a quick pace and with great scope, India’s efforts demonstrate a firm determination to close the infrastructure gap and strengthen its strategic influence in the area.

Satellite images verify China’s relentless construction of infrastructure over a three- to four-year period. This construction includes new airbases, missile sites, roads, bridges, tunnels, reinforced bunkers, underground facilities to shield military assets from aerial strikes, soldier housing, and ammunition depots. India’s drive to build infrastructure is a direct reaction to China’s drive to develop its border regions.

The Tawang sector’s forward sections close to LAC will get speedier weapon, personnel, and equipment deployment because to the Sela runnel.

Lieutenant General Rajeev Chaudhry, who departed as head of the BRO last year, said that India is closing the infrastructure gap with China quickly and that the nation would overtake the neighbor in five to six years if the present level of financial assistance is maintained.

The last four to five years have seen the acceleration of several initiatives. In the past three years alone, up to 330 projects totaling around ₹9,000 crore have been committed to the country. During 2021–2022, BRO’s capital expenditure increased by 160%. The government’s acute attention on border infrastructure development is reflected in the growing financial assistance, he added.

Military mobility and logistical support for India’s deployed forces have improved thanks to expedited project completion, increased spending, and targeted adoption of technology and techniques to close gaps that became apparent after the border standoff with China began in eastern Ladakh nearly four years ago.

According to Chaudhry in a previous interview, the clash in June 2020 in the Galwan Valley between the Indian Army and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marked a turning point in the nation’s focus on enhancing military capabilities and sparked unprecedented infrastructure development to thwart the adversary’s maneuvers.

After the Galwan Valley conflict claimed the lives of twenty Indian troops, bilateral relations fell to a six-decade low. India estimated that the PLA had suffered twice as many deaths as the Indian Army, despite Beijing’s official assertion that just four Chinese troops had died.

According to official figures, BRO built 934 km of roads year on average between 2020 and 2023, up from 809 km in 2015–20 and 632 km in 2008–15. In addition, during 2020–2023 it constructed 3,652 m of bridges year on average, down from 2,715 m in 2015–20 and 1,224 m in 2008–15.

The majority of these projects have been carried out in hazardous environments, highlighting the dangerous tasks that BRO workers play in the nation’s most remote areas.

The government has acknowledged their efforts as well.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gave his approval to a plan in January that would have insured tens of thousands of BRO contract workers who operate on construction sites to construct infrastructure around the nation’s borders. The government implemented a new regulation last year to provide BRO’s casual workers with dignity in the event of their demise.

Then, Singh had authorized the policy for the preservation and repatriation of casual laborers’ dead remains to their home country, increasing the cost of funerals for those whose dying rites are carried out at the workplace from ₹1,000 to ₹10,000.

Related Articles

Back to top button