Ladakh: India completes crucial roads even as stand-off continues with China

Aasif Suhaf, Srinagar: Even as the navy stand-off between the Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China continues in Ladakh, a number of strategically vital roads are nearing completion on the Indian aspect of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Around 225 kilometres of the Darbuk-Shayok to Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) part of the freeway from Leh to Karakoram Pass has been efficiently accomplished in April 2019. Over 35 bridges have been newly-built over snow-fed rivers. This highway offers all-weather entry to the Indian navy within the north-eastern area of Ladakh.

Even in the course of the present face-off between the armies of India and China, the indian aspect accomplished the 60-meter bridge on the Galwan River which is a part of the connecting highway from Galwan Valley to the DBO freeway.

The final part of the 235 kilometre stretch between Shyok to Karakoram Pass has no civil inhabitants. Shyok has a settlement of 25 households and no civilians are permitted past that time.

Building the DS-DBO part of the highway was a key space of the Ministry of Defence for this strategic northernmost nook of India, referred to as Sub-Sector North by the Indian navy.

The Daulat Beg Oldie navy base on the easternmost level of the Karakoram Range is in a chilly desert area within the far north of India, simply eight kilometres south of the Chinese border and simply 9 km northwest of the LAC in Aksai Chin. It lies a mere 10 kilometres from the Karakoram Pass that separates Tibet from Xinjiang.

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Through the Indus Valley to the north on the Chinese aspect runs the immensely strategic freeway NH 219 which connects Tibet with Xinjiang and the place the Chinese base with an airfield is situated at Ngari.

To make the Srinagar-Ladakh freeway and all-weather highway, the central cupboard had accredited the Zojila tunnel mission with Parallel Escape (Egress) tunnel between Baltal and Minamarg on the Srinagar-Leh part of NH-1A at a complete price of Rs 6,800 crore in Jan 2018. But the work didn’t take off.

Now on June 12, National Highways Infrastructure Development and Construction restricted (NHIDCL) invited recent bids for the mission, pegging its price at Rs 4,430 crore.

The work on freeway will begin quickly as few tunnels forward of Sonamarg has been virtually accomplished.

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