Without naming China, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Tuesday asserted that “what we had to face in the northern sector recently, we were able to face the adversary with determination, it was not possible without proper infrastructure development.”
He also mentioned that in the current scenario, the possibility of a conflict cannot be ruled out. “In today’s uncertain environment, the possibility of any kind of conflict cannot be ruled out. Such situations motivate us even more for the development of these areas,” the defence minister said.
Speaking at the inauguration of 27 new roads and bridges built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), many of them close to the China border, Singh said that “it is a matter of pride that we have the BRO for cooperation in the development of these areas…”
“Infrastructure development in border areas also strengthens our strategic capabilities. As we move forward in strengthening the border infrastructure, we must also strengthen our surveillance capacity in the same manner,” Singh said.
The 27 projects, including 24 bridges, were built at the cost of Rs 2,245 crore. “They will play an important role in strengthening the country,” said Singh. He stated that the new projects will “add many new links” to BRO’s “chain of records”.
Singh said that one of the “most important roads being dedicated to the nation today is the Chisumle-Demchok Road” in eastern Ladakh. Demchok is one of the areas that has remained unresolved in the 20-month-long India-China military standoff, as some “so-called civilians” have pitched tents on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“This road, built at an altitude of more than 19,000 feet, on the Umling La pass in southern Ladakh, has now become the world’s highest motorable road,” Singh said, adding that it will “not only enable faster movement of armed forces to the region but will also boost tourism and improve the socio-economic condition of the local people in the region.”
He mentioned that of the 24 bridges he inaugurated, five are in Ladakh, nine in Jammu and Kashmir, three in Uttarakhand, five in Himachal Pradesh and one in Arunachal Pradesh. The bridges range from 20 meters to 140 meters in length.
Another important bridge, he mentioned, is in Sikkim, on the Flag Hill – Dokala Road, which provides an alternative axis to the India-China-Bhutan trijunction near the Doklam Plateau, the site of the over 70-day standoff between India and China in 2017. The bridge on this road is a 140-feet double-lane modular Class 70 bridge built at a height of 11,000 feet, Singh said. He mentioned that earlier the country had to import different parts to make such bridges, but it is now done indigenously.
He said that the problems of infiltration, skirmishes, illegal trade and smuggling in the border areas often persist, for which the government initiated the Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System some time ago.
“Roads in border areas are not only for strategic needs but also ensure equal participation of remote areas in the development of the nation. In this way, these bridges, roads and tunnels play an important role in our security, and social development to empower the entire nation,” Singh said.
Inaugurating the new projects, Singh said: “If we look at the history of human civilization, then we will find that only those communities, societies or nations have been able to show the way to the world, which have developed their own paths firmly.”
The roads made by the BRO, he said, play an “important role in improving the socio-economic conditions in the border areas”. He said that after Independence, the country had policies because of which the hinterland areas were developed, but the border areas were not, and this continued to happen for a long time. “As we moved away from Delhi, the development graph would fall proportionally,” he said.
That is no longer the case, he asserted. “In today’s era, distance is not measured in kilometers, but in hours. BRO’s roads, tunnels and bridges have greatly reduced the distance and time between places today. That is, people belonging to the border areas are not only near the heart, they are also near Delhi.”
Under the Bharatmala project, Singh said, the government constructed roads, highways, expressways and increased the length of new railway tracks and airfields.
The defence minister said that the progress made by the BRO in building roads, tunnels and other infrastructure in remote areas in the last six to seven years has been “unprecedented”.
He said that as infrastructure in the border areas is being strengthened, “I am sure that in the coming times, there will not be any such area of our country where basic facilities are not available.”