00:30 GMT +321 October 2018
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    A view of the houses in Devprayag, Uttarakhand state, India

    India Speeds Up Construction of Mountain Passes Near Chinese Border

    © AP Photo / Rajesh Kumar Singh
    Asia & Pacific
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    The north Indian states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh were viewed as peace zones until recently when the Indian Army got an alarm call from border guards and the state police who claimed to have noticed Chinese troops entering several kilometers into the Indian side.

    New Delhi (Sputnik) — Months after the Doklam conflict with China, the Indian Army has set out a time-bound infrastructure development plan along the 2,167-mile-long Line of Actual Control (the de facto border). As part of the plan, the construction of four mountain passes — the Niti Pass, Thangla Pass, Lipulekh Pass and Tsangchokla Pass will be completed by the end of 2020. All four passes are situated either in Uttarakhand or Himachal Pradesh bordering China.

    "These four passes will be connected by 2020 on priority. The decision has been taken in the Army Commanders Conference. Additional funds to the Border Road Organization for Northern Command will soon be allotted for the proposed road construction," Indian Army Lt General Vijay Singh, the director of general staff duties, said.

    The Niti pass will be approximately 25 kilometers long, connecting the Niti village in Uttarakhand to the Chinese border. Lack of infrastructure has forced villagers to migrate to other areas leaving the region vulnerable to Chinese incursions. The Thangla Pass is situated at the height of 4,850 meters above sea level and it connects Uttarkashi to the Chinese border.

    Located at an altitude of 5,334 meters in the Chaudans valley of Dharchula sub-district in Pithoragarh district, the 76-kilometer-long Lipulekh pass is under construction. Sources told Sputnik that more than 50-kilometer stretches of the Lipulekh pass has been constructed and the remaining stretches are to be completed by 2019.

    Last week, Indian defense minister Nirmala Sitharaman visited the forward areas along the Chinese border. She visited places like the Nathu-la mountain pass by road. After returning to Delhi, she assured the army that the development capabilities of the Indian armed forces would be taken up with priority and also promised close monitoring of improvements to "strategic infrastructure, and long pending force modification requests."

    Earlier in August this year, the Indian Army had alarmed the government about the slow progress in the construction of strategic roads, as only 27 of the 73 roads approved for construction along the Sino-Indian border were completed, which had already been delayed four years. The Indian Army had termed the situation "alarming."

    Later in the same month, the Indian Defense Ministry had delegated more power to the chief engineers heading the Border Roads Organization (BRO) in order to avoid delays on account of references between the chief engineer and the BRO headquarters and also between the headquarters and the Ministry of Defense.




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