By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, May 21: China has completed the construction of one of the strategic highways through Tibet along the Yarlung Tsangpo (Brahmaputra river), granting greater access to areas along the border with Arunachal Pradesh in India. The official Chinese state media Xinhua reported last week that the highway took seven years to complete and also called it the “second significant passageway” to Medog County that borders Arunachal.
The finished highway directly connects the Pad township in Nyingchi to Baibung in Medog county, and will significantly reduce the distance between the two regions from 346 km to 180 km by cutting travel time by 8 hours. The building project undertaken by the China Huaneng Group required an estimated investment of over 2 billion Yuan (close to $301 million). The construction began in November 2014 as a wider infrastructure push in border areas in Tibet. Last year in November, China also launched a strategically important railway line that will link Sichuan province with Nyingchi city.
A report published by The Hindu highlighted the 2017 plan of Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) government to create new civilian settlements or “moderately well-off villages” in border areas. Under the project, 628 villages on the border and other remote areas slightly further within could be developed in the prefectures of Ngari, Shigatse, Shannan and Nyingchi, which lie on China’s border with India, Bhutan and Nepal. A total of 30.1 billion Yuan (30,000 crore rupees) was used for the project covering 62,160 households and 2.4 lakh people.
Last year, information regarding new villages propped up through satellite images, like the Pangda village built 2-3 km into Bhutan. Arunachal land also saw incursions by Chinese outposts in January where another village was built nearly 4-5 km into India’s border through the help of satellite images. The report said that these civilian settlements and new border infrastructures are “aimed at bolstering China’s control over the areas.”