Arunachal Frontier Highway: In the 1930s, Mao Zedong led an infamous long march from Jiangxi to Shaanxi in China. It paved the way for the CCP to become a numero uno organisation. Little did they know that nearly a century after that long march, a similar trajectory in India would be detrimental to their interests.
Revolutionary Frontier Highway in Arunachal
The Modi government has approved one of the largest and definitely toughest highway projects in the world. The Arunachal Frontier Highway has received official approval from the Cabinet. The government is constructing on a war footing.
It has declared it a “strategic project.” These kinds of projects are crucial for the land, air, and naval sovereignty of a country. This is the reason why their construction speeds are expedited.
Its strategic importance is that it is being built adjacent to the McMohan line. The total length of the project is 2,000 km. Estimated budget of the project is well over Rs 40,000 crores. Construction will begin in Mago, Arunachal Pradesh, adjacent to Bhutan.
En route areas include Tawang, Upper Subansiri, Tuting, Mechuka, Upper Siang, Debang Valley, Desali, Chaglagam, Kibithu, and Dong. The final landmark is Vijaynagar along the Myanmar border.
Mammoth Feeder roads
The government is also constructing 2,178 km of vertical and diagonal inter highway corridors. These roads will provide feeder services to three national highways, namely the Frontier Highway, the Trans-Arunachal Highway, and the East-West Industrial Corridor Highway.
The 402 km-long Thelamara-Tawang-Nelia Highway, the 391 km-long Itakhola-Pakke-Kessang-Seppa-Parsi Parlo Highway, the 285 km-long Gogamukh-Taliha-Tato Highway, the 398 km-long Akajan-Jorging-Pango Highway, the 298 km-long Pasighat-Bishing Highway, and the 404 km-long Kanubari-Longding Highway are parts of this coveted corridor.
Took a long time to eliminate the defensive mindset
The project took a long time to pass through the Ministry. The idea for this project has been mooted for at least a decade. However, the Manmohan administration stayed indifferent to the idea. A possible reason behind it is that, until 2008, the Indian government believed that better road connectivity along the China border would be advantageous to China.
The genesis of this kind of ultra-defensive thought process is the weakened sanction of defense-related stuff in ministry corridors. There is no shame in accepting that our forces were ill-prepared due to inefficient bureaucracy in Defence Manufacturing.
The Modi government had other plans in mind. It planned to strengthen defence forces. Nothing else explains the government’s proactive move towards launching a slew of road construction projects in the Northeast, especially Arunachal.
Despite China’s opposition, Kiren Rijiju had pushed for this project way back in 2014. However, the files could not move much. Meanwhile, the government kept constructing smaller roads, motorable roads, mule tracks, and bridges.
Arunachal Frontier Highway: A tactical advantage for India
However, nothing supersedes the importance of the Arunachal Frontier Highway. Not so long ago, Indian forces had to be airlifted in order to solve any crisis along the border. To connect remote areas, the Indian Armed Forces have seven advanced landing grounds in the state. Even today, these landing operations play a big role in controlling minor as well as major skirmishes. This is problematic in more ways than one.
Firstly, the presence of heavily armed forces in the region leads to poor perceptions about the Indian government among the tribals. Secondly, people-to-people contact also gets affected in an environment of distrust.
It also takes shine away from Arunachal being a tourist spot. Additionally, China can also propagandise the presence of troops by presenting India as an authoritarian country. Simply put, not having proper connectivity fails the Modi government’s idea of “minimum government, maximum governance.”
The 2,000 km long Arunachal Frontier Highway will solve all these problems. The military will find it easy to move its troops to the Line of Actual Control. This is nothing but a telling blow to China’s overambitious and hyper-jingoistic posture on the border. It will also lead to an increase in trade, which means that intra-Arunachal, intra-Northeast, and consequently intra-national integration of local tribes won’t be a bone of contention for future governments.
Less troops, more trade, and greater cooperation among locals. There is no bigger manifestation of nationalism anywhere in the world. What is important for a nation to flourish? Yes, economic and defence aatmanirbharta are few key metrics.
But the biggest advantage a country can have is the definition of geographical sovereignty. Until a few years ago, we did not have easy access to our border areas. Things are changing pretty quickly now.
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