New Delhi: Work on critical border infrastructure such as roads and bridges has gone up by nearly 75 per cent across seven states and union territories sharing borders with China and Pakistan in the last two years, defence ministry data has showed.

The work includes connecting roads and bridges at strategic locations in border towns of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir and Arunachal Pradesh, aimed at faster deployment of the military when required.

Ladakh alone has seen a 40 per cent jump in infrastructure developed by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in the last two years. The BRO functions under the defence ministry. 

While in the financial year 2018-19, Rs 750 crore was spent on infrastructure development in Ladakh, the amount in the current financial year went up to Rs 1,054 crore. Close to 10 bridges were built by the BRO in eastern Ladakh alone.

Border Infrastructure Work In Other States

In Jammu and Kashmir, infrastructure work worth Rs 1,144 crore was undertaken in this financial year, up 45 per cent from Rs 788 crore two years ago, the ministry data showed. 

Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh are the other two states that saw substantial increase in the border infrastructure development in the last two years. 

While Uttarakhand saw the biggest jump of 174 per cent in border infrastructure work — from Rs 534 crore two years ago to Rs 1,463 crore in the current financial year, Arunachal Pradesh saw a jump of 104 per cent — from Rs 843 crore to Rs 1,716 crore.

Other states like Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Sikkim also saw a significant jump in border infrastructure work in the last two years. 

The BRO’s budget was nearly stagnant at Rs 4,000 crore between 2009 and 2015, before jumping to Rs 5,400 crore in 2017-18. It has now reached Rs 11,000 crore for the 2020-21 fiscal.

The BRO is planning to expand the motorable network along the India-China border by building a road connecting Pooh in Himachal Pradesh to Chumar in Ladakh, and the other linking Harsil in Uttarakhand to Karcham in Himachal Pradesh. 

It has also stepped up work on an alternate road being built to Daulat Beg Oldie, where India’s highest airstrip is located, in eastern Ladakh.

Former director general of military operations (DGMO) Lt. Gen. Vinod Bhatia (Retd) explained that infrastructure is critical to India’s border management and defence.

“China, for instance, follows a ‘three R’ strategy — roads, radars and reserves. They have the early warning so that they can react well,” he said.

“Good infrastructure will not only help the military take proactive as well as pre-emptive action when needed.”

He added that while border infrastructure development is critical and have been built along the Line of Control with Pakistan, it started along the LAC with China only in 2005 and never really picked up in the following years.

“We were apprehensive that they (China) would exploit the infrastructure…”

Stating that a robust border infrastructure helps in war prevention capability, the former DGMO said it will aid in effective management of the LAC.

44 Bridges Inaugurated Last Month

Last month, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh inaugurated 44 major bridges at strategic locations along the western, northern and north-eastern borders. This included eight major bridges in Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh each, along with 28 other bridges located across different border sectors.

Director General of BRO Lt Gen. Harpal Singh had said in a statement at the time that the bridges — measuring 3,506 metres together — will facilitate faster movement of heavy civil and military traffic in the border areas, provide connectivity to the border population and aid in the faster deployment of troops when needed in sectors of strategic importance. 

The move, however, did not go down well with China who called the border infrastructure development “the root cause for the tension between the two sides”.

According to government sources, the cost incurred for building the 44 bridges was Rs 286 crore, including the approach routes to them.

48 Major Bridges To Be Completed This Fiscal Year

Defence ministry data showed the BRO is working on the construction of 102 major permanent bridges, measuring 7,500 metres, in the border areas of the country in this financial year. Of the 102, 54 bridges have already been completed, while the remaining 48 will be completed in this fiscal year.

In 2018-19, 2,817 metres of border bridges were constructed, while in 2019-20, 3,500 metres of such bridges were built.

This apart, the BRO has also completed construction of 60 bailey bridges to meet immediate requirements of the armed forces and border population.

Of the 61 roads that the BRO has been constructing under the India-China Border Roads programme conceptualised in the 1990s, it has already constructed 40 roads and aims to complete 12 roads by early next year.