Flights Of Fantasy
[ M Panging Pao ]
According to its 14th Five-Year Plan, China is planning to spend about 30 billion dollars in the period from 2021 to 2025 for improving infrastructure in the Tibet region. This massive amount is planned to be used for building new expressways, upgrading existing highways, and building more airfields and dams in Tibet.
There is a massive improvement in the transportation infrastructure in Tibet. China recently launched a bullet train connecting Lhasa with Nyingchi, which is a border town opposite Mechukha in Arunachal. Construction has begun on the most difficult Sichuan-Tibet railway to link Chengdu with Lhasa. In addition, recent news indicate completion of the 67-kilometre highway across one of the deepest gorges connecting Nyingchi with Medog county located a few kilometres north of Tuting in Arunachal. China is also planning to construct 30 new civil airports in Xinjiang and Tibet.
Another part of the border infrastructure push is the construction of new civilian settlements along the border areas in line with the recently announced plan to build ‘628 first and second line moderately well-off villages’ along China’s borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal.
China has already constructed two dams over the Yarlung Tsangpo at Zangmu and Zam. Three more dams are under construction at Dagu, Jiacha and Jeixu. Reports indicate that China has revived plans to construct a massive dam near Namcha Barwa also.
To counter these developments, India is also pushing infrastructure development along the border. Strategically important roads/rails/bridges like the road/rail bridge over the Brahmaputra at Bogibeel, Sadiya bridge, Bomjir bridge and Sissiri bridge have been completed. Six ALGs were commissioned at Pasighat, Ziro, Aalo, Mechukha, Tuting and Walong. Missamari-Tenga Valley-Tawang and Murkongselek-Pasighat-Tezu-Namsai railway lines are planned. In addition to the Trans-Arunachal Highway, roads along the border are also planned. Similarly, recently plans were approved to develop selected border villages.
However, India is lagging behind China in the infrastructure sector. The Tezpur-Bomdila-Tawang road is yet to be completed.
Other important roads like Daporijo-Limeking-Taksing, Likabali-Aalo-Mechukha/Manigong, Yingkiong-Tutting, Tezu-Hayuliang-Walong roads are in a bad condition. There is lack of ammunition depots, POL depots north of the Brahmaputra and lack of hardened shelters in the area. People living in border areas are migrating to towns located in deeper areas due lack of development and facilities in the border areas.
China is a powerful nation and an aspiring super power. Being a frontline state, Arunachal is directly affected. The only way to counter the Chinese threat is by expediting construction of infrastructure like key roads, railways, bridges, airfields, fuel/ammunition depots, hardened shelters, etc, along the India-China border. India has already experienced a setback during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. In addition, regular incursions, skirmishes and violent clashes have occurred at Doklam, Nathula, Galwan valley, Chaklagam, etc. We need to learn and adopt Chanakya Niti. (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)