The government of India is planning to improve its national security by building 44 "strategic roads" along its border with China, and to add 2,100km to the road network in the northwestern states of Punjab and Rajasthan, which border on Pakistan.
The roads along the Chinese border are being built by India’s Central Public Works Department (CPWD) at a cost of about $3bn, and will make military logistics easier in the event of a future conflict.
The plan, announced in the department’s annual report, will allow India to move forces more easily to the rugged terrain covered by the 4,000km-long "Line of Actual Control" between India and China, which runs from Jammu and Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh.
The line, which was agreed following China’s victory in the 1962 Sino-Indian Border Conflict, continues to be a source of tension between the two Asian superpowers – particularly when it comes to the construction of roads. In June 2017, around 270 Indian troops with two bulldozers, entered Doklam to stop the Chinese troops from constructing a road there.
The CPWD report said the plan was still to be approved by the Cabinet Committee on Security, headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The report added that the roads in Rajasthan and Punjab would cost an addition $750m. The report says: "A total of 945km of lateral roads and 533km of axial roads lie in Rajasthan (tentative cost Rs 3,700 crores) and 482 km of lateral roads and 219 km of axial roads in Punjab (tentative cost Rs 1,750 crores)."
India has had a cool relationship with China throughout its existence. Rivalry has increased in recent years owing to China’s ever closer relationship with Pakistan, and to a lesser extent its wooing of Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives, which India tends to view as an encirclement strategy.
The building of roads in border areas is a double-edged strategy. Although it makes it easier for one side to deploy and supply troops, it also makes it easier for an invading force to do the same.
Image: A road near the Chinese border in Uttarakhand (Anurag Agnihotri/CC BY 2.0)