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November 24, 2011

India lags in construction of roads along border with China, admits government

(Times of India) : The lumbering Elephant is finding it tough to keep pace with the Red Dragon. The government on Wednesday admitted only 15 of the 73 roads identified for construction along the 4,057-km Line of Actual Control with China have been completed.

"Out of the 73 roads identified as strategic border roads, 15 have been completed, 39 are scheduled for completion by 2013 and the remaining 19 by 2016," said defence minister A K Antony in a written reply to Rajya Sabha.

"The main reasons for the slow progress are delay in forest/wildlife clearances, hard rock stretches, limited working seasons and inadequate air efforts to mobilize resources,'' he added.

The tardiness is stark since China has "aggressively'' strengthened its military capabilities in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and elsewhere. This includes five fully-operational airbases, an extensive rail network and over 58,000-km of roads in TAR, which makes it possible for China to swiftly move over 30 divisions (each with over 15,000 soldiers) to the LAC, outnumbering Indian forces by at least 3:1, as reported by TOI earlier.

The 15 roads constructed by India measure around 600-km out of the total of 3,808 km required for the 73 all-weather roads. The 73 roads cover all the three sectors of LAC -western (Ladakh), middle (Uttarakhand, Himachal) and eastern (Sikkim, Arunachal) -and include more east-west lateral links as well as better access routes to strategic peaks and valleys.

The Army, alarmed at the excruciatingly slow progress in construction of the border roads, has been demanding that infrastructure build-up within 50 km of LAC as well as LoC with Pakistan should be exempted from requisite long-winded environmental and other clearances. India is taking other steps to shore up its defences against China. The measures range from planning a new mountain strike corps (over 45,000 troops) after raising two new mountain infantry divisions, with 1,260 officers and 35,011 soldiers in Nagaland and Assam, to the progressive deployment of Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, spy drones, helicopters and missile squadrons in the north-east.

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