India puts China border roads on the fast track

As New Delhi pushes Beijing to show flexibility on the Arunachal border ahead of Chinese President Hu Jintao's visit this month, the Government has pressed fast forward on its plan to build a network of roads in the state, including eight "strategically important" stretches that, for the first time, will connect points right on the India-China border.

The Prime Minister's Office has instructed the Ministry of Roads, Transport and Highways to prepare a revised Cabinet note merging the first and second phases of the Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North East.

Result: the 2013 rollout for an estimated 3000 km of roads in Arunachal has been advanced by four years to 2009.

The Arunachal focus, sources said, helps the government strengthen its negotiating position in the boundary talks where Beijing continues to make a case for Tawang, Asafica, Kinzemane and Longjou areas of the state. In fact, Tawang is the critical issue around which the current round of New Delhi-Beijing talks revolve.

Given that both sides have accepted the principle of "safeguarding interests of settled populations", it is important that the ground reality in Arunachal Pradesh leaves little room for doubt. After all, New Delhi believes, Beijing has used the same strategy in Tibet.

So about 3062 km of road network will be built in Arunachal Pradesh, which is nearly 50 per cent of the entire programme. Of this, almost 40% is marked "strategically important".

This translates into eight strategic roads proposed by the Ministry of External Affairs (see map) plus two added following discussions with the state government.

The network includes two stretches that touch close to the India-Bhutan-China trijunction and the India-China-Myanmar trijunction. And the Indian portion of the historic Stillwell (India-Myanmar-China) road.

... contd.

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