Millennium Post

Strategic link with Arunachal

Communication between Arunachal Pradesh and other parts of the country would improve in a major way once India’s longest road-cum-rail bridge (4.98 kilometres) is built on the mighty Brahmaputra River.  

Construction is somewhat behind schedule and the work is likely to be completed in 2016, a full year later than planned. This has added to the cost of the project, being handled by the North Frontier Railway. It would link Bogibeel, Assam, with upper Assam districts along the way to Arunachal Pradesh.

The greatest advantage would be a reduction by 10 hours the time taken now to reach the international border with China from Assam. At present the crossing over the Brahmaputra River takes around 90 minutes, using existing modes of transport. Once the bridge is ready, large-scale movement of people and goods would become much easier.

China historically regards Arunachal as the southern part of Tibet in the East Himalayan region. In recent years, it has made it clear that it does not recognise the area as part of India. More worryingly, it has completed an impressive road-cum-roadways network reaching very close to the Indian border in this area. Strategic analysts say that such construction is usually undertaken with a view to conducting heavy-duty military operations on a large scale, at short notice if necessary.
In contrast, India’s defence preparations have been hardly adequate. India does not accept China’s territorial claims regarding Arunachal Pradesh.

It is only of late that policymakers have reacted to the developments across the border, taking note also of repeated and apparently systematic, violations of the border from the Chinese side. Belatedly, a rail and road network is currently being put in place to counter any possible hostile Chinese activity. On the anvil are major highways as well as supporting roads, much of the work to be done by the Border Roads organisation.  However, most projects are running well behind schedule not least because of the long wet monsoon season the region.  

The bridge will be a very important communication link not only strategically, but also economically. It would fit in very well with India’s ‘Look East’ policy and regional plans to help the BMIC --- the new regional grouping comprising Bangladesh, Myanmar, India and China. Ironically, China and Bangladesh have been pressing India to improve and upgrade existing road and other traffic network on its territory, with a view to facilitate more border trade and strengthen the local economies involved.  

The urgent need for better connectivity between Arunachal Pradesh and the Indian mainland figured prominently in a recent meeting in Delhi between the State Chief Minister Mr Nabam Tuki and the Union Defence Minister, Mr A.K. Antony. Mr Tuki expressed concern over the slow pace of work on the road building projects and urged upon the Union Minister to intervene personally. Such projects in the region should receive top priority, he argued. The State administration had expressed its concern on several occasions over continuing Chinese infringements of international border regulations.  He also demanded the improvement and the reopening of the once famous Stillwell Road, especially along the India-Myanmar
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