India-China Border Roads (ICBR) project is a Government of India project which aims to develop the infrastructure along the Sino-Indian border by constructing “strategic roads”. Several entities are responsible for constructing ICBR, including Border Roads Organisation (BRO) which handles the bulk of the ICBR road construction work, NHAI, MoDNER, Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Projects Construction Corporation (NPCC), PWDs of respective states and others. China, after significantly upgrading infrastructure in Tibet Autonomous Region with five airbases, an extensive rail network and more than 58,000-km of roads network, is also resorting to “a slow but steady cartographic aggression” to keep India under geo-strategic pressure.
BRO is responsible for constructing 105 ICBR, including 73 ICBR roads in Phase-1 to be completed by December 2020 and 32 ICBR roads in Phase-2. BRO is responsible for the road network of 32,000 km length, out of which 67% are assigned to ICBR roads. Out of 73 ICBRs in Phase-1, less than 50% were complete by 2018, subsequently, with additional funds the speed of construction increased. Some of the important projects include the already completed Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road and also the Atal Tunnel(Rohtang tunnel), and in the northeast the under construction Sela Tunnel and an under-construction tunnel under the Brahmaputra river with Indian Railways.
Strategic infastructure requirements
In the wake of heightened road and track construction work undertaken by China along with India’s Northern & Eastern Frontiers, India constituted a China Study Group (CSG) in 1997, to study the requirement of road communication, along the China border for the brisk movement of troops in case of aggression. At the end of the study, the CSG identified a network of 73 roads called India-China Border Roads (ICBR), to be developed along the Indo-China border. The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) in 1999 approved the construction of these roads by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) under the Ministry of Defence. The project was to be completed by 2006 but the deadline was then extended to 2012. The Standing Committee on Defence, a body for legislative oversight, appraised strategic road connectivity in 2018. With regard to the slow pace of construction of border roads, the Border Roads Organisation stated to the committee:
It would not be incorrect to say that few years back the philosophy of our nation was that we should not make roads as near to the border as possible. That philosophy is telling today very clearly as to why we do not have roads. It is only couple of years back that we suddenly decided a change of philosophy and said no, we must go as far forward as possible. It is going to take time. Unfortunately, the time cannot be compressed. Whatever we can do, it will take time.— BRO, 15th Report, Standing Committee on Defence (2018-19)
Reasons such as climate, geography, land acquisition and natural disasters also accounted for the delays. In 2013 the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government took multiple administrative decisions to speed up construction. The 2017 Doklam standoff was a wake up call for the Modi-government with related to border infrastructure along the China border.
Requirement for strategic roads
Ministry of Defence submitted a total operational requirement of 852 roads of length 30118 km to the BRO. Out of this, border roads have been classified under the Long Term Roll on Works Plan (LTRoWP); that is 530 roads spanning 22803 km including 73 ICBRs. The work structure for the ICBRs is divided among different agencies. Out of the 73 ICBRs, BRO was responsible for 61 roads while the remaining to other departments such as the National Buildings Construction Corporation (NBCC), Central Public Works Department (CPWD), National Projects Construction Corporation (NPCC) and state public works departments. ICBRs are present in Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh. Arunachal Pradesh has the most proposed ICBRs numbering 27. Funds were also diverted from “General Staff (GS) roads” to ICBRs.
ICBR project phases
As of January 2020, the present revised target completion date for Phase-I is December 2020. Of the 73 ICBR in Phase-1, 61 roads assigned to BRO and remaining 12 to CPWD.
- Phase-1 or ICBR-1 project started in 1999 with a target completion date of 2012 to construct 73 strategic ICBRs of nearly 4000 km length.
- Annual burdget: INR 11,800 crore in 2020-21, INR 8,050 crore in 2019-20, INR 6,700 crore in 2018-19, INR 5450 crore in 2017-18, INR 3,300 crore to INR 4,600 crore from 2008 to 2016. Spending on Line of Actual Control (LAC) roads tripled between 2016 and 2020, from ₹4,600 crore (US$640 million) to ₹11,800 crore (US$1.7 billion).
- Number of roads completed: additional funds were released in 2018 with the aim to complete the road by December 2020, less than 50% (less than 36) roads were complete by March 2018, and only 30% (22 roads) were complete by March 2016. Of the 61 roads assigned to BRO, nearly 75% (41) were complete by February 2019, another 11 on target to be completed by March 2020, remaining 9 by December 2020.
- Road length construction completed: 4,764 kms roads during 2014-20, and 3,610 kms during 2008-14.
- Mountain formation-cutting completed: 470 km during 2017-20, and 230 km during 2008-17.
- Surface-clearing completed: 380 km during 2017-20, and 170 km roads during 2008-17.
- Road tunnels completed: 6 during 2014-20, 1 during 2008-14, 19 road tunnels are under planning stage in June 2020.
- Bridges completed: 14,450 metres length during 2014-20, 7,270 metres during 2008-14.
Some of the important projects include the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road and Rohtang tunnel in the Ladakh; and in the northeast the Sela Tunnel and a road and rail tunnel under the Brahmaputra river with Indian Railways.
Phase 2 aims to construct 32 roads along the border. In June 2020, amid the India-China skirmishes, the government asked all bodies to speed up the construction of the roads. Additional labour was also sent to these areas to assist in speeding up construction.
List of ICBRs
Incomplete list of ICBRs as follows:
|Sr No||Name of Road||Phase||State||Length||Bridges||Completed|
|1||Orang- Kalaktang –Shergaon- Roopa- Tenga||Assam/ Arunachal Pradesh||158||Kalaktang, Gajni, Shikari, Sher, Balemu, Bomnag, Haflong||Yes|
|3||Sangestar – Kharsangla||I||Arunachal Pradesh||16||–||Yes|
|6||Naga-Sonam-Kumal||I||Uttarakhand||11.65||Jadganga River bridge||Yes|
|9||LGG (Lungrom-GG)-Mukto-Teli||Arunachal Pradesh||53||–|
|10||Tama Chung Chung (TCC)-Taksing||I||Arunachal Pradesh||54||–||Yes|
|13||Tr Jn-Bheem Base-Dokala||Sikkim||19.72||–|
|15||Joshimath-Malari||Uttarakhand||62.67||Dhak, Tamak, Suraithota, Subaigadhera||Yes (2016)|
|24||Bona -Gelling||Arunachal Pradesh||–|
|25||Harong – Chushul||Ladakh||–|
|26||Sasoma – Saserla||Ladakh||–|
|27||D-S-DBO||I||Ladakh||Shyok Gang-I, Shyok Gang-II, Shyok Gang-II, Shyok-II||Yes|
|28||Koyul – Photila – Chisumle – Zurasar||Ladakh||–|
|31||BJG-LGG||Arunachal Pradesh||45||Tawangchu-II/ Tawangchu-III|
|37||Mana-Mana Pass||56 km||Uttarakhand||–||Yes|
Related geo-strategic projects
- Andaman and Nicobar Command, integrated command plays an important role in protecting Exclusive economic zone of India and maritime borders of India, hence various military and infrastructure capabilities upgrades are underway.
- Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, among India, Australia, USA and Japan is important to Indo-Pacific geo-strategy especially in countering China’s aggression in the Territorial disputes in the South China Sea and for the protection of world’s busiest and most voluminous shipping lane passing through the Bay of Bengal, Strait of Malacca and Singapore Strait.
Border airport and ALG projects
Indian Airbases, Chinese Airbases, Indian Army bases, and China’s bases along LACWestern Theater Command of China, area under integrated command. Chinese Military has an integrated Western Theater Command across the whole LAC with India. Indian Military has divided the LAC into 3 sectors – the western sector across Ladakh and the Chinese-held Aksai Chin, the central sector across Himachal Pradesh and Uttrakhand states, and the eastern sector across Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh states. Similarly, Indian Airforce has Prayagraj-based Western Air Command, Delhi-based Central Air Command, and Shillong-based Eastern Air Command to cover the LAC.
- Daulat Beg Oldi ALG serves Trans-Karakoram Tract (Shaksgam), Aksai Chin and Siachen disputed area.
- Fukche ALG serves Demchok, Trans-Karakoram Tract and Aksai Chin disputed area.
- Leh Airport serves Trans-Karakoram Tract, Aksai Chin and Siachen disputed area.
- Nyoma ALG serves two separate noncontiguous but closely located disputed twin areas of Chumar North and Chumar South.
- Padum ALG Serves Ladakh LAC and Kashmir LOC as second line of defence airport.
- Thoise ALG
- Himachal Pradesh shares 250 km border with Tibet (China).
- Shimla Airport, civil airpot available for military use. Serves Kaurik, Tashigang-Shipki La and Nelang-Pulam Sumda disputed area.
- Kullu-Manali Airport, civil airport available for military use. Serves Kaurik, Tashigang-Shipki La, and Nelang-Pulam Sumda disputed area.
- Kibber-Rangrik, surveyed but as of July 2020 no progress has been made, Will be closest ALG to Chumar, Kaurik, and Tashigang-Shipki La disputed area.
- Uttrakhand has 350 km border with Tibet.
- Chinyalisaur Airport ALG serves disputed Bara Hoti and Nelang-Pulam Sumda sector. ITBP has 42 BoPs (border outposts) in Bara Hoti sector and Mana Pass area (Nelang-Pulam Sumda sector).
- Pithoragarh Airport ALG serves disputed Kalapani territory.
- Pakyong Airport AGL serves Doklam disputed area.
- Arunachal Pradesh
Border bridge projects
- Teesta River road bridge in Sikkim, already completed in 2020 will serve Doklam sector.
- Teesta River railway bridge, under construction in July 2020 and on target for completion by December 2020.
- New bridges on Brahmaputra River in Assam will serve Arunachal Pradesh in Eastern Sector.
Border railway projects
India’s Ministry of Defence (MoD) has identified at least 15 new geostrategic rail lines to be constructed near China, Pakistan and Nepal border for the rapid and easier deployment of troops. China has built lines up to Shigatse in Tibet, with plans to connect it to Nepal and further to India. After these lines proposed by MoD in 2013, GoI approved the initial surveys of all 14 lines in 2014, Some of these as well as other related projects are as follows:
Border road projects
- Ladakh and Himachal Pradesh
- Darbuk–Shyok–DBO Road, completed in 2020 as part of ICBR.
- Leh–Manali Highway, not part of ICBR, several tunnels are coming up on this to provide whole year connectivity.
- Char Dham Highway, not part of ICBR,
- Kalapani territory, newly constructed in 2020 as part of ICBR.
- Lipulekh Pass road, proposed spur of Kalapani territory road as part of ICBR.
- Pooh–Chumar Road, not part of ICBR.
- Bagrakote-Gangtok Highway: 250km-long road originating from NH17 (NH31 as per old numbering) near Bagrakote in the Dooars to Gangtok is being upgraded to national highway standard in July 2020 by the National Highway and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited. It passes through Algarah-Lava-Rishyap(in West Bengal on Sikkim border)-Rhenock-Rorathang-Pakyong-Ranipool to Gangtok. In addition to the existing landslide-prone NH10 Sevoke-Gangtok Highway, this will provide the alternate access to state capital Gangtok and beyond to India China border.
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Arunachal Frontier Highway, proposed along the India-China border and is not part of ICBR.
- Arunachal East-West Corridor, proposed across foothills of lower upper Arunachal Pradesh, not part of ICBR.
- Trans-Arunachal Highway, exiting the operational highway.
Border tunnel projects
As of June 2020, ICBRs included a total of 26 road tunnels, of which 7 were complete and 19 road tunnels were under planning stage. As of November 2017, BRO was constructing 17 road tunnels of a total length of 100 km, on some of the 73 strategic roads on Sino-Indian border to provide the year-round all-weather rail and road surface connectivity. Some of these tunnels have dual road and rail usage. Presently, road access to high altitude posts on the Sino-India border is closed for six months every year due to snowfall and rain, and supplies are through airlift only. These tunnels will reduce the travel time and operational costs, eliminate the risk of avalanche and landslide. Some of these tunnels are under construction while others are still in the planning stage. List of tunnels, from west to east along India China border, is as follows:
|1||Eastern||Zoji La||Jammu and Kashmir||N||On Srinagar-Kargil-Leh NH1.|
|2||Eastern||Lungalacha La||Ladakh||On Leh-Manali Highway.|
|3||Eastern||Bara-lacha la||Ladakh||On Leh-Manali Highway.|
|4||Eastern||Tanglang La||Ladakh||On Leh-Manali Highway.|
|5||Eastern||Shingo La near Nimo||Himachal Pradesh||On Leh-Manali Highway.|
|6||Central||Rohtang Tunnel||Himachal Pradesh||On Leh-Manali Highway.|
|7||Central||Char Dham multiple rail/road tunnels||Uttrakhand||See Char Dham Rail and Road projects.|
|8||Western||Theng Pass||Sikkim||0.578||On NH310A between Chungthang and Tung in North Sikkim.|
|9||Western||Nechipu Pass||Arunachal Pradesh||Near Bomdila and Sela Pass tunnels on NH13 Bogibeel Assam to Tawang.|
|10||Western||Bomdila||Arunachal Pradesh||N||Near Bomdila and Sela Pass tunnels on “NH13 Bogibeel-Tawang.|
|11||Western||Sela Pass||Arunachal Pradesh||N||Near Bomdila and Sela Pass tunnels on “NH13 Bogibeel-Tawang.|
Sea ports and waterways projects
Sagarmala port development project and Waterways projects will also enhance geostrategic capabilities along LAC and elsewhere. Following waterway projects in Assam on Brahmaputra River and its tributaries are of geostrategic importance for the movement of military assets:
|1||Eastern||NW2||Sadiya-Dhubri stretch of Brahmaputra River||Assam||891||Y|
|6||Eastern||NW31||Dhansiri River-Chathe River||Assam||110||N|
|8||Eastern||NW33||Doyans River||Assam, Nagaland||61||N|
|13||Eastern||NW38||Gangadhar River||Assam, West Bengal||62|
- Gohpur–Numaligarh under-river tunnel, is an under construction tunnel under the Brahmaputra river
- Mukteshwar, doppler radar
- Surkanda Devi, doppler radar
- Chamoli, air defence radar, under construction
- Pithoragarh, air defence radar, under construction
- Uttarkashi, air defence radar, under construction
Northeast connectivity projects
- Northeast Connectivity projects
- Look-East Connectivity projects
- North-South and East-West Corridor
- India-Myanmar-Thailand Friendship Highway
- BCIM Economic Corridor
- Asian Highway Network