WITH a thaw in the India-China relations remaining elusive, New Delhi has stepped up efforts to strengthen border infrastructure in a bid to keep pace with the relentless build-up by Beijing. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh will inaugurate 90 projects, built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) at a cost of Rs 2,941 crore, on September 12. These include roads, bridges, tunnels and airfields in 10 border states and union territories. Last year, 103 BRO infrastructure projects were dedicated to the nation at a cost of Rs 2,897 crore.
The minister will also lay the foundation stone for an airfield, which will be constructed by the BRO at an estimated cost of Rs 218 crore in the strategically important Nyoma area of eastern Ladakh. The airfield is expected to augment air infrastructure in Ladakh — a hotbed of India-China hostilities — and boost the Indian Air Force’s battle-readiness along the northern border. It is critical to ensure that such important projects are completed within their timelines. Any delay can be detrimental to the interests of national security. Worrisome is the fact that the strategic Sela tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh, which will facilitate faster deployment of troops and weapons to forward areas in the Tawang sector, has already missed a series of deadlines.
The BRO chief, Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry, has admitted that India is behind China in raising border infrastructure, but he added that the country is catching up fast by dint of speedy execution of strategic projects to bolster military operations. In his estimation, India will almost draw level with China in the next three to four years. However, it would be naïve to presume that Beijing would take its foot off the pedal in the coming years. Even as military and diplomatic parleys between the two sides are likely to continue, India must go all out to scale up its presence along the LAC.
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