People in the northeast and Sikkim would be wondering at times if it is China they should give credit for all the efforts that New Delhi has been putting towards this ‘non-mainland’ region. Nobody in New Delhi cared for what happened in the Northeast. But things have dramatically changed over last one decade. One after another special packages are being planned by the Center for this long ignored zone. The latest in line is India embarking on a major infrastructure drive in Arunachal Pradesh, with plans for three railway lines in the border state, including one to connect the strategic Tawang plateau with Assam.
With the Chinese juggernaut refusing to slow down on any front, new worries are propping up. In the most recent one, the defence ministry has told a parliamentary committee that China has “geographical advantage” over India along the border between the two countries, reported the DNA.
“China has been building its infrastructure. They have advantage of the topography also because they have the Tibetan plateau whereas from our side, the terrain and geography are more difficult,” defence secretary Pradeep Kumar told the Standing Committee on Defence.
To counter the infrastructure development by China in border areas, the government has sanctioned various projects to build a road network in the northeastern region.
“Therefore, these roads (Project 73 roads) have been assigned the highest priority by the government,” he said.
The Indian Express reported that the traditionally discreet Defence Ministry (especially when it comes to infrastructure projects in the North-East) has revealed detailed plans to enhance border infrastructure. This includes three strategic railway lines: Missamari (Assam) to Tawang, North Lakhimpur (Assam)-Along (Arunachal)-Silapathar (Assam), and Murkongselek (Assam)-Pasighat (Arunachal)-Rupai (Assam).
Of the three railway lines proposed, the Tawang line is of most strategic importance as it also has a major Indian military base. At present, the only access is via road which frequently closes down in bad weather, or helicopters which again do not operate in adverse weather conditions. The defence ministry has said that the survey for the Tawang line has been sanctioned and is due to commence shortly.
What is interesting is the speed at which projects are being implemented. For the Along line, the survey has been completed while for the Pasighat line Rs 165 crore has already been allotted. In a Standing Committee report tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, the Defence Ministry said the railway line to Pasighat has been declared a ‘National Project’.
The government has also accorded top priority to construction of new roads along the North-East border. It is now building “operationally critical infrastructure” including permanent defences along the Line of Actual Control. Almost 50 per cent work on the 73 critical road projects along the China border has been completed.
The government is also working to connect Ladakh to Himachal Pradesh with a railway line.
(With inputs from Indian Express)