October 15, 2014 – India plans to build a highway along its remote, disputed border with China in the country’s northeast, an official said on earlier today, prompting concern from Beijing.
China defeated India in a brief but bloody war in 1962 and their border remains unresolved, with both sides regularly accusing soldiers of crossing over into the other’s territory.
The proposed billion-dollar project aims to cut through mountainous terrain in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, an official told AFP. The home ministry official said project details were still being ironed out, but hoped construction of the 1,800-kilometre (1,118-mile) long road would begin soon.
The highway comes after the government of nationalist Prime Minister Narendra Modi has relaxed curbs on building near the disputed border since coming to power in May. Asked about the road plan, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing hoped India “will not take any actions that may further complicate the situation”.
“The boundary issue between China and India is left by the colonial past. We need to deal with this issue properly,” Hong told a daily news briefing in Beijing. “Before a final settlement is reached, we hope that India will not take any actions that may further complicate the situation. We should jointly safeguard peace and tranquility of the border area and create favourable conditions for the final settlement of the border issue.”
Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to India in September was overshadowed by a troop standoff at the remote frontier. The visit had been intended to reset diplomatic ties between the two powers after Modi’s election. Hundreds of Chinese troops had allegedly ventured into territory claimed by India in a disputed area of mountainous northern Ladakh region, before eventually pulling back.
Junior home minister Kiren Rijiju told the Press Trust of India news agency on Tuesday that the road would be the “biggest single infrastructure project in the history of India”. He said poor roads connecting northeastern states to the rest of India was a major reason behind launching the project, expected to cost the government 400 billion rupees (US$6.5 billion).
“The road has also been planned considering the large-scale migration of people from border areas and the need to push them back by creating all basic amenities to make them comfortable,” said Rijiju.