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India is nearing completion of a crucial road project to its northernmost military base, Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO), situated near the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, according to officials who wished to remain anonymous. 

What makes this road indispensable is its invisibility from the LAC, enhancing its security. The new road, which will be used for the movement of soldiers, weapons and logistics to bolster the front lines, cannot be seen from across the LAC.

This development comes at a time when tensions between India and China have escalated since May 2020. While both nations have been engaging in negotiations, resolution seems a distant dream. The existing road to DBO from Darbuk is more vulnerable due to its proximity to the LAC. This new road, which branches off from Sasoma in the Nubra Valley, will provide a secure alternative for troop and equipment movement.

The task ahead is not simple as the construction of this 130-kilometre road involves terrain challenges that would test even the most experienced engineers. The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has been at the helm of this ambitious project, which requires building a bridge over the Shyok River and working in glaciated areas. 

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Despite these challenges, officials have confirmed to the Hindustan Times that the road will be operational by November 2023 for critical military activities, with complete blacktopping expected within 12 months.

Latest technologies are being harnessed to meet the project deadlines, according to another anonymous official who spoke to HT. This includes the use of geocells—three-dimensional, expandable panels—to stabilise road surfaces in these difficult terrains. Meanwhile, BRO has also chalked out plans for a 7-km tunnel under Saser La to ensure all-weather connectivity by 2028.

In the last three years, BRO has concluded nearly 300 vital projects costing around 8,000 crore. These include significant road networks like Nimu-Padam-Darcha, Chushul-Dungti-Fukche-Demchok and Likaru-Mig La-Fukche, even as dialogue between India and China continues to resolve border tensions.

The alternative route via Nubra Valley and over Saser La is a remarkable feat, according to Retired Lieutenant General DS Hooda, especially given the glaciated region’s challenges. The new road is seen as India’s proactive step to ensure it is not left behind in the race to build strategic infrastructure near its border.

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Updated: 29 Sep 2023, 10:45 AM IST

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