India moved to upgrade its defence infrastructure along the border with China, announcing the construction of two Advanced Landing Grounds (ALG) at Tawang and Dirang in Arunachal Pradesh on Thursday, a day after Beijing gave its own names to six places in the northeastern state.Defence Secretary G. Mohan Kumar held a high-level review meeting with Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu and discussed the ALGs to be constructed in Dirang and Tawang.
The meeting was also attended by Town Planning and Urban Development Minister, Nabam Rebia, including senior Army officials and senior state officials.Khandu has promised to speed up clearance of pending issues to expedite construction of the airfields.The Chief Minister also discussed issues related to land acquisition for defence purposes, the strategic 378 km Missamari-Tenga-Tawang railway line, the status of ALGs and other security related issues.
The Missamari-Tenga-Tawang railway line is expected to be completed by October 2020. Survey work for the project, estimated at Rs 50,000- Rs 70,000 crore, is expected to begin next year.However, Defence Ministry officials urged the Arunachal government to speed up on location survey works so that the project could be completed earlier.
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During the meeting, the Defence Secretary informed the Chief Minister that the Defence Ministry has given its seal of approval for civilian use of the six ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh to promote tourism in this frontier state.
Kumar said the Defence Ministry had approved civilian use of these airfields on March 30.”The dual use of the ALGs would help Arunachal Pradesh in promoting tourism and other commercial activities and bring succour to the sick and needy who require urgent transportation,” Kumar said.
The six ALGs – Tuting, Mechuka, Along, Passighat, Vijaynagar and Ziro – along the India-China border have been reconstructed, expanded and operationalised by the Defence Ministry and are under the direct control of the Indian Air Force.On the issue of defence-related land compensation, the state government said that on the matter of dual compensation raised by the defence forces, a Group of Ministers has been set up whose report is awaited.
The Arunachal government officials informed that process is on for grant of permanent rights instead of leasehold rights to defence authorities, on condition that the defence authorities pay annual lease rent of Rs 10 per sq mt, which is as per the amended rules of the state’s land settlement laws.
The move to construct two ALGs in Tawang and Dirang comes after China renamed six places in the state, which it considers as part of “southern Tibet”. China had strongly protested the visit of Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, to Arunachal Pradesh, especially Tawang earlier this month.