M A I N   N E W S

China’s key tunnel ready near border

Dragon Moves

  • The 3,310-metre tunnel has come up in strategic
  • Motuo county that borders Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as southern Tibet. It is also a place from where Brahmaputra enters Arunachal
  • The move has caused concern in India as it provides strategic capability to Chinese troops to move quickly to borders

Beijing, December 15
China today completed construction of a 3,310-metre tunnel as part of an ambitious plan to build a highway connecting a remote Tibetan county close to the Indian border with rest of the Himalayan region.

State television showed live pictures of the workers breaking into celebrations after explosives ripped through one of the ends of the tunnel. It took workers more than two years to complete the construction of the tunnel through the snow clad-Galongla mountain located at an altitude of 3,750 metres. Motuo county or Metok as it is known in Tibetan language is the last county in the region that has no highways. Though a remote county, it has its own strategic significance as it borders Arunachal Pradesh, which China claims as southern Tibet. Besides, it is a place from where Brahmaputra, one of the largest of the Himalayan rivers, enters Arunachal.

The construction team broke through the tunnel, just as Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao flew to India on a three-day visit, regarded by both sides as significant as it is expected to put the strained relations back on track.

Located on the southern slope of the Himalayas, Metok would now have a 117-km long highway connecting it with the nearby Bomi county. During the past few years, China has embarked on a massive effort to strengthen its rail, road and air infrastructure in the remote Tibetan plateau.

While China has vastly improved the infrastructure facilities in the Himalayan region, the move has caused concern in India as it provided the strategic capability to Chinese troops to move quickly to the borders. It has prompted India to beef up infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh.

India and China have so far held 14 rounds of talks to resolve differences on demarcation of some of the areas of the 4,000 km-long border. The dispute mainly confined to Aksai Chin in Ladakh region and Arunachal. India also conveyed concerns to China over Beijing's plans to build a dam over Brahmaputra. China, for its part, assured India that it planned to build a run-of-the-river project to generate electricity and not a dam to block the water.

The issues are expected to figure in Wen’s talks with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Metok county, with a population of 11,000, is Tibet's last county which is not linked with the rest of the Tibetan plateau with a highway.

Snow and rain make the mountain roads impassable for nine months of the year, and a walk can take about 10 hours.

The 117-km Metok Highway, linking Bome and Metok counties, will shorten the time drastically as the journey through the tunnel will take just half-an-hour, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. — PTI




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