India’s first foray to connect the upper Himalayas with the plains is stuck due to the lack of funds.
Amid India’s strategy to connect the borders to improve relationship with its neighbours, four critical railway lines that would connect the Chinese border to the Indian hinterland has become a matter of utmost importance for New Delhi.
According to senior government officials, who did not wish to be quoted, these lines are planned to allow quick troop movement. To allow the project to move forward, the ministry of external affairs, along with the railway ministry, have together put forward the case before Prime Minister Narendra Modi for an urgent action.
Officials added that these four lines which cost around R200,000 crore, or over $ 30 billion, alone comprise around 80% of the total defence budget of 2014-15, which is why the projects are on hold.
“These four lines are the most critical of the 14 planned to help rapid troop movement to the border. As of now, the estimated construction time is eight years but delays might add to the years,” another official said.
These projects include a 250-km line connecting North Lakhimpur to Silapathar in Assam and the 300-km line connecting Rupai in southeastern Assam to Tezu, Pasighat and Murkongselek in Arunachal Pradesh.
India had planned these projects against China’s already-constructed high-speed railways connecting the 3,448-km Line of Actual Control to the hinterland.
The official said that given the Chinese border infrastructure as of now, it allows the People’s Liberation Army to rapidly ferry troops across the Tibetan plateau to the border.
Other lines like the 500-km all-weather Leh-Bilaspur link, which is expected to pass through Upshi in Ladakh bypassing two important conflict points in Leh — Demchok and Chumar. In the recent past, both areas have seen several transgressions by Chinese soldiers.
Besides, the link connecting Tawang — an area claimed by China — is one of the most critical. Currently, troops in Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram cannot cross the Brahmaputra river and are forced to take a long and circuitous route.
The other two lines will connect the remotest parts of Arunachal Pradesh to Assam.