New road to Doklam to give military edge to India, Bhutan

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New Delhi, Oct 3 (IANS) Doklam, which was at the centre of a 73-day military face-off between the armies of India and China in 2017, is now better connected on the Indian side with an alternate road providing strategic advantage to the Indian forces.

The road, built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), also gives access to Bhutan to the boundary tri-junction of India, China and Bhutan.

The alternative road, defence experts said, will provide strategic advantage to Bhutan too in the region apart from India. Bhutan has got the same access to the road as India as per a friendship treaty entered into between the two countries in 2007.

In June 2017, Chinese troops had moved into the Doklam area – strategically located at a tri-junction point between India, China and Bhutan – in gross contravention of an existing understanding between the three countries.

The Indian Army had found it difficult to move troops and material to in the absence of an alternative route. A top retired military official said the new route gives India the confidence and mobility to move troops to the region, apart from providing it with strategic advantage.

“The opening of the alternative road provides our troops with the advantage of redundancy whereby it can be used if one of the roads is closed for whatsoever reason. The area is prone to landslides in the monsoon and there is closure during the winter months. The road provides us with tactical, operational and logistical advantage,” retired Director-General of Military Operations Lt Gen Vinod Bhatia told IANS.

Bhatia said the road had been sanctioned to the BRO for construction – along with 72 other roads – near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) between India and China in the year 2005. It was after India decided to reverse its decades-old policy of not constructing motorable roads near the LAC to prohibit the Chinese from entering into Indian territory with ease.

“The road is located entirely within Indian territory. Another road to the south of the existing road will give India the military advantage to defend Bhutan in the future should the need arise. We already have an edge over China in the region by occupying a dominant position. It used to take several hours to trek to the area earlier,” said another top Army officer on the condition of anonymity.

A source in the Indian Army said there was a delay in the construction of the road because of issues pertaining to land clearances. The deadline for completion of all 73 roads had initially been set in the year 2012. However, it was subsequently extended to 2015 and then again to 2019.

“The road had to be built through a protected sanctuary for which we had to seek several clearances. The land acquisition act of India should be relaxed with respect to construction activities within a fixed perimeter from the border for reasons of security,” said the source.

(Ayaskant Das can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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