Chilling, Ladakh: “Making a road is a measure of a nation’s sovereignty. It exercises command and control, and it says that these are my people”. Lt Gen Raghu Srinivasan, the Director General of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) says of the critical road connectivity being built up in Eastern Ladakh and Siachen in the backdrop of the two-front threat from China and Pakistan. In this exclusive interview with StratNews Global’s Amitabh P. Revi on the frozen Zanskar River ‘Chadar’ Trail at Chiling near Leh in Ladakh, the DG notes “the impetus has over the last five or six years been a surge in what we are planning to do and are doing in Ladakh. The amount of projects which are being planned at the National and at the Union Territory level, the amount of funding, which is provided, the way that projects are being cleared, all of it is phenomenal. We’ve not seen anything like it.” Watch the complete interview with Lt Gen Raghu Srinivasan, the DG of the BRO in our series, ‘The Himalayan Frontier’. Part V.
On the differences in road infrastructure in China-occupied Tibet and across the LAC, Lt Gen Srinivasan points out, “the Tibetan Plateau is at a lower altitude-between 12000 to 14000 feet. And it’s a flat tabletop. There are no mountain ranges. So, whatever you’re constructing is on a flat piece of ground. That’s number one. Number two, the mountains are the watershed. That means whatever snow or moisture is going to come is going to stop in our portion. Tibet really is a flat, barren, cold desert. For anyone who constructs roads, moisture or water is a great enemy. That’s what we need to work on. And see that we have ways by which we have adequate drainage. So whatever roads we construct are not washed away. Then starting from the south, you have the great Himalayan range, the Ladakh Range, the Karakoram, there are a series of ranges. We have a very fragile mountain base. They are young mountains in terms of the Himalayas, and these are landslide prone. With moisture, they become avalanche prone and naturally you keep ascending, and you keep gaining height and then you keep descending and losing height. So, the zig-zags that we have in each of these is essentially to get over a series of mountain ranges, which we have over an expanse of Ladakh, which is approximately 60,000 square kilometres.”
SNG’s team of Amitabh P. Revi, Rohit Pandita and Karan Marwaha documented their journey to Leh on the strategic third, alternate axis—the Darcha-Padam-Nimu (NPD) Road, in episode III and episode IV. The route provides critical connectivity for defence logistics to and civilian development around the Northern China-occupied Tibet border or Line of Actual Control (LAC), the Line of Control (LoC) and the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Siachen with Pakistan. It is shielded from both the India-China border and the frontier with Pakistan unlike the other two axes. StratNews Global’s team travels during the fourth winter of India’s forward deployment post Xi Jinping’s aggression that led to the deadly Galwan clashes in 2020. The freezing temperatures highlight one of the several challenges the BRO faces in recce-ing, tracing, drilling through the mighty ranges and building black-top roads on this route. India’s infrastructure development has seen a sustained thrust, especially after China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) salami slicing tactics in border areas. In part II of this series, the Indian Army Chief, General Manoj Pande told StratNews Global Editor-in-Chief Nitin A. Gokhale in an exclusive interview, that talks with China are continuing at both military and diplomatic levels but India is maintaining a robust posture along the LAC. Northern Army Commander Lt Gen. Upendra Dwivedi also told Nitin Gokhale in Part I, that the “situation is stable but sensitive and not normal”.
Episode III, IV and V document the BRO’s consistent infrastructure push in road connectivity, In our next episodes, we shift focus to the Indian Air Force (IAF) and its air bridges, and capture on camera how the Indian Army, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), and the IAF’s women, men and machines are honing their all-weather readiness during another winter, against the two-front threat from China and Pakistan.