The north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh has boosted developments in its infrastructure beginning with the inauguration of India’s longest bridge, which has been strategically positioned to defend the country from Chinese threats.
“India did not develop physical infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh for two decades after the 1962 war as many stupidly believed the Chinese would use the roads if they attacked again. But now we are on the right track,” retired Major General Gaganjit Singh, who has commanded a division in the north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, told the media.
Apparently, the infamous Sino-India war between India and China had an aftermath, rather long lasting.
The Chinese had entered into a war with India in 1962 standing off between 10,000-20,000 Indian troops and 80,000 Chinese troops. India was not ready for what turned out to be a month long war until China declared ceasefire.
Since then, India has not had any infrastructural developments in the state and the opening of the new bridge is a landmark development.
The Dhola Sadiya bridge, whose construction began in 2011, is finally complete and ready to use. The 9.15 km (5.68 mile) bridge is India’s longest bridge so far and connects the disputed territory of Arunachal Pradesh with the state of Assam in north-east. Built over the Lohit river, the bridge is expected to facilitate development, boost tourism and more importantly, back India combat threat from China.
China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own and calls it “southern Tibet”. In fact, Beijing has been protesting against the development of military infrastructure in the state with India defending its rights on the other end. “With China getting more and more aggressive, it is time we strengthened our physical infrastructure to defend our territory,” says India’s junior Home Minister Khiren Rijiju.
A native of Arunachal Pradesh, Rijiju had earlier said that “Arunachal Pradesh is part of India and that reality will not change, regardless of who likes it or not”.
The infrastructural development in the largest north-eastern state has been picking pace despite odds. “It was real tough work, a major engineering challenge, and the speed was slightly affected by some compensation issues,” said an official from Navayuga Engineering, the company which constructed the bridge.
The future too seems promising.
After the bridge, the state is going to see the construction of a two-lane trans-Arunachal highway, four projects on widening roads and upgradation of a World War-II vintage road.
Another project underway is to upgrade the chain of advance landing grounds for heavy lift transport aircraft . This is expected to improve India’s strategic airlift capabilities. “We need infrastructure to move up troops and supplies if we have to fight the Chinese and this bridge is a great thing,” Major General Singh told the BBC.
India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh has also acknowledged the importance of developing physical infrastructure in the state, as part of efforts to defend a long border with China. “We want peace, but peace with honour. We need to be capable of deterring anyone who may think we are weak,” Singh told members of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police force that guards parts of the frontier with China.
The bridge is capable of supporting 60-tonne battle tanks and will be of tremendous benefit to the Indian military but the locals are equally excited about it as it has been built over a crossing of the mighty Brahmaputra. The bridge will also reduce travel time by as much as eight hours for communities on either side of the river.
“I promise this will not just be a military thing, it will help develop the economy of remote regions of Assam and Arunachal, and it will attract tourists in large numbers,” said Assam chief minister Sarbananda Sonowal.