The Government of India had on February 15 approved the construction of a strategically crucial tunnel under the Shinkun La on the border between Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

The tunnel will be build by the Border Road Organisation (BRO) of the Indian Army at a cost of Rs 1,681.5 crore. The tunnel will be completed by December 2025.

The development is an important one and comes amidst the ongoing stand-off with China.

The tunnel will be 4.1 kilometres long and will be provide alternate and all-weather connectivity to Ladakh.

The tunnel will be located at an altitude of 16,500 feet on the Manali-Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis. The most stunning feature of the tunnel is it will not be one bit vulnerable to shelling and firing of missiles by Pakistan or the Chinese armies. The tunnel will ensure swift troop and weaponry movement to the forward areas.

Indian Army Looking To Replace Foreign-Origin Weapon Systems

The decision to go ahead with the tunnel was given by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led Union Cabinet.

The all-weather connectivity to Western Ladakh and Zanskar Valley directly from the Manali Axis through a 298 km National Highway Double Lane will reduce travel time when compared to that of Zoji La from Sringar.

The tunnel was given approval by the Defence Ministry in 2021 following differences between the BRO and National Highway Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (NHIDCL). The BRO had approved a short tunnel, where the NHIDCL wanted a longer one.

The BRO's reasoning for a short tunnel was due to the early completion of the project in the light of the threat from China.

India has over the years reduced the infrastructural difference with China along the 3,488 km Line of Actual Control. India has ramped up road works, set up many more airfields, bridges, tunnels and helipads. The tunnels in particular are a priority since it provides both all-weather connectivity and helps in swifter troop movement in the border areas. It also helps in the storage of ammunition, missiles and fuels.

Currently there are nine tunnels under construction, which includes the Seala tunnel to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh at a height of 13,000 feet. Further the government is planning to construct 11 more tunnels. More infrastructure projects are on the anvil which will be constructed by the BRO and Indian Army Corps of Engineers.

The India-China standoff began in March 2020. Indian troops also clashed at the Galwan Valley which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and more Chinese soldiers. Both sides have been increasing their military strength in addition to engaging in both military and diplomatic dialogue to reduce tensions.