In­dia’s in­fra push be­hind Chi­nese ag­gres­sion

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTSPOTLIGH­T - ANIL DHASMANA

To set the mat­ter straight, the Prime Min­is­ter’s Of­fice on Satur­day, in a state­ment, said that the Prime Min­is­ter was crys­tal clear that “In­dia would re­spond firmly to any at­tempts to trans­gress the Line of Ac­tual Con­trol (LAC)”. He specif­i­cally em­pha­sised that in con­trast to the past ne­glect of such chal­lenges, In­dian forces now de­ci­sively counter any vi­o­la­tions of LAC, the state­ment fur­ther said.

As PM Modi said, be­cause we have bet­ter in­fra­struc­ture in place at LAC, we are to pa­trol more, and hence we tend to meet more and con­front more. To put things in the right per­spec­tive, the in­creased strate­gic in­fra­struc­ture has rat­tled China to no end as the Dragon is fac­ing re­sound­ing In­dian mil­i­tary might, not the rel­a­tively docile In­dia it used to deal with, be­fore 2014.

DECODING THE LAC CON­FLICT

In the last few years, there have been fre­quent face-offs in cer­tain sen­si­tive ar­eas in East­ern Ladakh. It has been a di­rect out­come of In­dia’s abil­ity of in­creased pa­trolling in the area due to vastly im­proved in­fra­struc­ture readi­ness.

In fact, the more fre­quent face­offs are not nec­es­sar­ily a sign of weak­ness, or due to de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­la­tions, but in­di­cate greater abil­ity on the part of In­dian Army to mon­i­tor, de­tect and re­spond to Chi­nese PLA pa­trolling.

As in­fra­struc­ture keeps im­prov­ing, th­ese pos­si­bil­i­ties will only in­crease.

There is a long his­tory of In­dia’s deal­ings with China, and al­most all of the re­verses that In­dia has suf­fered have been dur­ing the pre­vi­ous rule, par­tic­u­larly of Congress regimes. It all started with the Ti­bet’s an­nex­a­tion by China which In­dia ac­cepted qui­etly in 1959. In 1962, the loss of large chunk of ter­ri­tory, and the then In­dian Prime Min­is­ter in­ter­pret­ing it by say­ing that “not a blade of grass grows there”, sums up the at­ti­tude to­wards border is­sues.

Dur­ing the 1980s and 1990s, when China started tak­ing lead over In­dia eco­nom­i­cally, mil­i­tar­ily, and in in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion, In­dia was not able to re­spond and match up in equal mea­sure. In the 1990s, bound­ary man­age­ment agree­ments were signed that fur­ther lim­ited In­dia’s ma­noeu­vring abil­ity, par­tic­u­larly the 1993 Ac­cord.

The United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance era (2004 to 2014) al­lowed mul­ti­ple trans­gres­sion of In­dian land through de­cep­tive salamis­lic­ing meth­ods of the Chi­nese, and even lost lands in Demjok ar­eas of Ladakh dur­ing the pe­riod of 2008 to 2012.

AK Antony, the then de­fence min­is­ter, con­ceded in Par­lia­ment that we have lost the in­fra­struc­ture race with China. It was in this era, that the serv­ing army chiefs re­peat­edly pointed out how our armed forces were fac­ing short­fall of crit­i­cal am­mu­ni­tion and border in­fra­struc­ture woes to counter en­e­mies.

The pol­icy paral­y­sis was re­versed fol­low­ing the regime change in 2014 and Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi changed decades of drift in In­dia’s pol­icy to­wards China by bridg­ing the in­fra­struc­ture gaps in border ar­eas by con­struct­ing roads and bridges with faster pace.

It was PM Modi who dared China on sev­eral fronts and foiled its bids in Dok­lam, stopped RCEP, and strongly op­posed Chi­nese dream pro­ject OBOR.

BIG IN­FRA PUSH WOR­RY­ING CHINA

The ge­n­e­sis of the build­ing up of faster strate­gic in­fra­struc­ture can be traced back to 2014, when the Modi gov­ern­ment gave it a big push. One of the first de­ci­sion of the gov­ern­ment was to is­sue a gen­eral ap­proval in July 2014 for the cre­ation of road net­work by Border Roads Or­gan­i­sa­tion (BRO) within 100km of aerial dis­tance from LAC. This gen­eral ap­proval en­sured that re­quire­ment of prior cen­tral gov­ern­ment and other bu­reau­cratic process were done away with.

Sub­se­quently, this ex­cep­tion has been ex­tended to all border se­cu­rity re­lated in­fra­struc­ture such as border out­posts, flood­lights, fenc­ing etc, and all projects ex­e­cuted by the Cen­tral para­mil­i­tary or­gan­i­sa­tions of the min­istry of Home Affairs.

This was in stark con­trast to the ap­proach taken by the UPA gov­ern­ment where block­ing of such sen­si­tive in­fra­struc­ture projects un­der var­i­ous rea­sons was the norm. Of­ten the de­lays were due to flip flops on en­vi­ron­men­tal clear­ances.

Sim­i­larly, the Modi gov­ern­ment del­e­gated pow­ers to DG, BRO, clear­ing the way for con­struc­tion of 66 op­er­a­tionally crit­i­cal Indo-China bor­ders roads. Ear­lier, ev­ery ap­proval came to the min­istry of de­fence. Th­ese pow­ers were sub­se­quently del­e­gated to of­fi­cers up to chief en­gi­neer level in BRO.

The gov­ern­ment also took cru­cial steps like the pro­cure­ment of mod­ern con­struc­tion on a mas­sive scale dur­ing 2017-2020. It also en­hanced air­lift of con­struc­tion equip­ment and ma­te­rial from 2017 on­wards, of­ten us­ing Chin­hook he­li­copters.

The proac­tive shift in the pol­i­cy­mak­ing re­sulted in mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture cre­ation.

Ac­cord­ing to BRO statis­tics, be­tween 2008 and 2017, the for­ma­tion cut­ting of about 230km of roads were done an­nu­ally, but this has now been in­creased to 470km per year be­tween 2017 and 2020 along the In­dia-China border. Sim­i­larly, be­tween 2008 and 2017, the speed of sur­fac­ing of roads was 170km per year, but it has been in­creased to 380km per year be­tween 2017 and 2020.

Only one tun­nel was con­structed be­tween 2008 and 2014, while six tun­nels have been made dur­ing 2014 to 2020. The con­struc­tion of about 19 tun­nels is also un­der progress.

Dur­ing 2008 to 2014, 7270 me­tres long bridges were built, while 14,450 me­tres of bridges were built be­tween 2014 and 2020. In the pe­riod be­tween 2008 and 2014, roads of 3,610km were con­structed on the border while 4,764kms of roads were built be­tween 2014 and 2020.

For about five decades af­ter 1962 war, the con­struc­tion of th­ese roads which were ne­glected has now been taken care of and it has been con­structed in record pe­riod of time along the LAC. Un­doubt­edly, In­dia’s push to build and up­grade in­fra­struc­ture along the LAC is be­hind China’s ag­gres­sion and re­cent border skir­mishes.

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