02:57 GMT30 October 2020
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    The Manali – Lahaul Spiti tunnel named after former Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will make Ladakh more accessible for those on the mainland cutting the travel distance and time significantly. Over the past six months, India and China have been embroiled in a border dispute in Ladakh.

    Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday opened the strategic Manali-Lahaul Spiti tunnel connecting Ladakh. The tunnel reduces the road distance between Manali in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh and Leh in Ladakh by 46 km. It cuts travelling time by between four and five hours providing quick access to Ladakh.

    According to PM Modi’s website, the tunnel is the longest highway tunnel in the world. “The 9.02km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul Spiti valley throughout the year. Earlier, the valley was cut off for about six months each year because of heavy snowfall,” his website said. It added that the tunnel is built with ultra-modern specifications in the Pir Panjal range of the Himalayas 3000 metres above sea level.

    ​Modi said, “The Atal tunnel will give new strength to India's border infrastructure. It is an example of world-class border connectivity. This tunnel is not only important to Himachal, but also because it facilitates a connection to Ladakh. People who live in the mountains would know the significance of cutting down travel time by four or five hours," the Prime Minister added.

    During the opening, Modi was unable to resist taking a pop at his principal opposition party, Indian National Congress, blaming it for long it took to implement strategic infrastructure while it was in power.

    “There have been demands to improve border infrastructure but, for a long time, such projects either couldn't get out of the planning stage or got stuck midway," Modi said taking a dig at the Congress party during the opening speech. PM Modi also referred to the fact that experts say that with the speed the tunnel was being built during the Congress regime, it would have taken 20 years to complete.

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    Tags:
    Narendra Modi, strategic road, tunnel, Ladakh region, India
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