Article by Shantanu K. Bansal
Until the mid-2000s, New Delhi refused to upgrade the poor condition of its military roads near the border with China, out of the apparent belief that such shoddy transport links would slow down the inevitable Chinese cross-border advance that would take place in the event of a war, allowing additional time for Indian forces to be mobilized from the interior.
In 2004, however, then prime minister Manmohan Singh and his military chiefs began to consider enhancing India’s military presence and readiness along its border areas with China for defensive purposes
In 2006, the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), India’s highest defense decision-making body, authorized the construction of 73 new border roads to improve military connectivity and responsiveness.
As of September 2017, only 23 of these roads have been completed, indicating that logistical mobility remains an issue for the Indian Army.
The Recent Satistics About Border Road-building
However, things are now changing. Between 2008 and 2014, as much as 7,270 metres of bridges and 3,610km of roads were built by India. Between 2014 and 2020, as much as 14,450 metres of bridges and 4,764kms of roads have been built by India in the border areas.
While only one tunnel was built between 2008 and 2014, six have been built between 2014 and 2020. At least 19 major tunnels are under construction.
The speed of road surfacing has increased from 170 km per year between 2008 and 2017 to 380 km per year between 2017 and 2020.
Probable Implications of Increased Border Road Building
In the last few years, there have been frequent face-offs in certain sensitive areas in Eastern Ladakh. It has been a direct outcome of India’s ability of increased patrolling in the area due to vastly improved infrastructure readiness.
In fact, the more frequent face-offs are not necessarily a sign of weakness, or due to deteriorating relations, but indicate greater ability on the part of Indian Army to monitor, detect and respond to Chinese PLA patrolling.
Experts Believe Increased Pace of Border Roads Building is Making China Uncomfortable
This can be understood by the recent comment by a CCP spokesman. “For a while, the Indian side has been stepping up infrastructure building along the border with China. This is the root cause of tensions,” Lijian Zhao, a Chinese Communist Party spokesperson, said on 13 October, 2020.
India, however, has rejected the claim saying all the roads and bridges it is building are coming up on its side of the border. It has also cited the continued buildup of infrastructure by China in contested areas, including the laying of optical fiber network and the construction of roads, to dismiss this claim.
1. “Stabilising China-India Security Relations: Managing Strategic Rivalry After Doklam” by Frank O’Donnell published by Carnegie Tsinghua Institute
2. “India’s infra push behind Chinese aggression” by Anil Dhasmana, Ex-secretary R&AW published by Hindustan Times
3. “Ladakh: China ‘Upset’ With India’s Rapid Infrastructure Buildup, Blames It For Tensions Along The LAC” by Swarajya Magazine