Defence Minister Rajnath Singh with Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande at Siachen Base Camp

The 4.1-km long Shinku La tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 60 km, from 355 to 295 km

The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will begin work in mid-September on the Shinku La tunnel, which will provide all-weather connectivity from Manali to Leh via the Nimmu-Padam-Darcha axis, officials said on Thursday. The tunnel, located at an altitude of 15,800 feet, is expected to be completed in four years and will become the world’s highest tunnel, surpassing China’s Mila tunnel at 15,590 feet.

The construction of the Shinku La tunnel will further enhance military mobility and logistics support for deployed forces in the Ladakh sector, as the Nimmu-Padam-Darcha road will offer a third connectivity option to Ladakh. Connectivity between Nimmu and Darcha was achieved in March 2024, and the road is currently being blacktopped.

This development comes amid the ongoing military standoff between India and China in eastern Ladakh, which has entered its fifth year. Despite negotiations, there is no indication of a resolution to the outstanding issues along the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC), although India hopes that talks will help restore the status quo ante of April 2020.

The 4.1-km long Shinku La tunnel will reduce the distance between Manali and Leh by 60 km, from 355 to 295 km. It will serve as an alternative to the Manali-Leh and the traditional Srinagar-Leh routes. The Nimmu-Padam-Darcha road holds strategic importance as it is shorter than the other two axes and crosses only one pass, the 16,615-ft high Shinku La.

In the last three years, BRO has completed 330 projects at a cost of ₹8,737 crore, significantly improving the strategic mobility of the Indian armed forces along the border with China. The organization is also close to completing an ambitious project to provide alternative connectivity to Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), India’s northernmost military base near LAC.

The construction of the 130-km road from Sasoma in the Nubra Valley to DBO near the Karakoram Pass is in its final phase. The existing 255-km Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DS-DBO) road runs close to LAC, and Sasoma and Darbuk can be reached from Leh via two different road axes.

India’s border infrastructure push has been driven by the speedy execution of strategic projects to support military operations, increased spending, and the focused adoption of technology and techniques. In March, Prime Minister Narendra Modi dedicated the Sela tunnel project in Arunachal Pradesh to the country, with the infrastructure upgrade boosting the military’s readiness in the strategic Tawang sector.

(With Agency Inputs)