Much to the displeasure of China, Indian PM Narendra Modi recently inaugurated the Atal Tunnel which connects Manali to Leh (Ladakh) in the presence of Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Cheif of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, Army Chief General MM Naravane and Himachal Chief Minister Jairam Thakur.
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The 9.02 km long, the Atal Tunnel – named after former Indian PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee, built at a height of over 10,000 feet is expected to provide “new strength” to the country’s border infrastructure especially as conflict with China rages on.
With the new tunnel, India can rapidly deploy its troops along the volatile LAC, while the transportation of military equipment other essential supplies could go through this tunnel as well.
Chinese state media the Global Times (GT) in an expected critique writes – It’s true that the tunnel could significantly reduce the distance from the rest of India to Leh. Its value as both a battle readiness tunnel and the strategic channel has clear strategic importance to India.
The tunnel will greatly assist Indian soldiers and their provision of supplies in peacetime; however, it will have no benefit in during a war, especially if an armed conflict breaks out between India and China wrote the GT.
The report further says that the Chinese People’s Liberation Army PLA has the capability to threaten this tunnel (during a conflict) and make unserviceable.
Going on an advisory mode, GT writes that India should restrict itself and shun provocations as no passage exist that can boost India’s combat capability.
The report says that India has been accelerating the construction of roads, bridges and other vital infrastructure along the China-India border. The Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi (DSDBO) road — 255 kilometers long — was completed last year while New Delhi has identified 73 strategic roads along the China-India border that they will continue to build throughout the winters.
The report adds that India’s infrastructure capability is limited in comparison to China. The 73 combat-ready roads were approved nearly 10 years ago, but they have not been completed until now, indicating that India’s infrastructure construction capability is limited and lacks experience.
The report concludes by saying India’s construction of Atal Tunnel is more for “show” and for political propaganda. The tunnel’s practical use in wartime is not yet a consideration for India’s politicians, but it’s an important tool in satisfying their established practical interests.
The author is a Chinese military expert and commentator. [email protected]