Boost to Border infrastructure focusing China

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    • Recently, the External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar provided details of India’s projects on border infrastructure and connectivity during an unscheduled briefing in Parliament.

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    • The government’s projects on border infrastructure and connectivity will focus on initiatives in the north and east along India’s 3,488 km border with China (Line of Actual Control or LAC).
    • The projects will also include ramping up infrastructure on the Indian side in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.
    • Steps will also be taken to revamp projects connecting India to “friendly” neighbouring states such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Myanmar.
    • The EAM also highlighted the need to focus on border preparedness, including the quality of structures, technology involved, and maintenance.
    • The report was released in the wake of an official Security Conference report that said Indian forces have lost access to 26 of 65 patrolling points along the LAC since 2020.
    • The briefing is aimed to counter Opposition’s questions on the India-China situation during the parliamentary session besides allaying concerns in neighbouring countries in light of the recent drop in share value and credit ratings of the Adani Group, which has been involved closely with the government’s foreign policy forays, especially in the neighbourhood.
    • The timing is particularly significant as it comes a few weeks before the visit of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang to Delhi for the G-20 Foreign Minister’s Meeting.

    Major highlights:

    • The official document highlighted a multi-pronged approach, including improving connectivity to the LAC through roads, bridges, and tunnels
    • India is also looking to improve cross-border connectivity to neighbouring countries via highways, bridges, inland waterways, railroads, electricity lines, and fuel pipelines
    • India is modernizing and constructing integrated check posts (ICPs) at all border crossings to smooth trade
    • India is funding and constructing infrastructure projects in neighbouring countries.

    Neighbourhood Projects

    • The report lists dozens of planned, financed, or constructed projects in the neighbourhood, such as railway links to Nepal and Bangladesh, the Mahakali motorable bridge, and the Maitri Setu between Tripura and Bangladesh
    • India is also involved in the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Project (KMTTP), which includes a 158 km waterway, the Sittwe port project and road to Mizoram, and South Asia’s first cross-border petroleum products pipeline
    • India is developing a Bhutanese dry port in Pasakha bordering West Bengal under an Indian government grant.

    Government Schemes to strengthen Indian Borders

    • Border Roads Organisation (BRO): It is responsible for developing and maintaining road infrastructure in India’s border areas of strategic importance and improving border management.
    • Bharatmala Pariyojana: It is a centrally-funded scheme that aims to develop 65,000 km of national highways across the country, including in border areas.
    • Border Infrastructure and Management (BIM) – It aims to provide better roads, electricity, and communication infrastructure along the border areas to enhance security.
    • Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) – It aims to improve border infrastructure and facilitate trade and commerce while enhancing security by streamlining the process of cargo and passenger movement.
    • Comprehensive Integrated Border Management System (CIBMS) – It aims to create a seamless and robust surveillance mechanism along the border areas with the help of advanced technologies.
    • Scheme for Modernisation of State Police Forces (MPF) – It aims to equip state police forces with modern weapons, technologies, and infrastructure to enhance their capability to combat cross-border infiltration and terrorism.
    • Special Accelerated Road Development Programme for the North East (SARDP-NE): It aims to provide all-weather road connectivity to the North Eastern Region to enhance security by improving mobility of the military and paramilitary forces.

    Importance of Border infrastructure:

    • Border infrastructure is crucial for India’s national security, especially along its border with China (Line of Actual Control or LAC) in the north and east.
    • Improved border infrastructure helps India to enhance its preparedness for any security challenges that may arise.
    • The infrastructure developments along the border also help to improve the connectivity of India’s remote areas with the rest of the country, enabling economic development and reducing regional disparities.
    • Modernization of integrated check posts at border crossings helps to smooth trade with neighbouring countries and promote regional economic integration.
    • The development of connectivity projects with neighbouring countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, Myanmar, and Sri Lanka strengthen India’s strategic and economic relationships with these countries.
    • Rapid development of infrastructure along the northern borders with China is a strategic imperative for India in light of the ongoing border disputes and conflicts with China.

    Challenges of revamping border infrastructure:

    • Harsh terrain: climate conditions in some border areas, which make construction and maintenance of infrastructure difficult.
    • Security: Projects often have to factor concerns due to ongoing tensions with neighboring countries, which require extra precautions and delays in construction timelines.
    • Corpus: Limited funding and resources often slows down projects and delays completion.
    • Environmental concerns: There is a need to balance development with preservation of natural resources.
    • Geopolitical considerations:  Concerns about China’s influence in the region affects decisions about where and how to invest in infrastructure.

    Source: TH