Seven new battalions of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) will be raised and a 4.1-km tunnel to provide all-weather connectivity to the border areas of Ladakh built with the government giving its approval on Wednesday, in a major move to bolster the country's defence along the China border.
The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) cleared the proposal for hiring of 9,400 fresh personnel for raising seven new border battalions apart from a new operational base for the ITBP, which guards the 3,488-km-long India-China border ranging from the Karakoram Pass in Ladakh to Jachep La in Arunachal Pradesh. The new personnel will be stationed mainly in Arunachal Pradesh.
The government decisions come amid the India-China military standoff along the Line of Actual Control(LAC) in eastern Ladakh that erupted in May 2020 and scuffles in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh in December last year.
The ITBP proposal was cleared during the CCS meeting that was chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Union Information and Broadcasting minister Anurag Thakur told reporters.
The new battalions and the sector headquarters are expected to be put in place by 2025-26, he said.
The Union Cabinet at its meeting chaired by Prime Minister Modi gave its nod for the construction of the 4.1-km Shinkun La tunnel on the Nimu-Padam-Darcha road link to provide all-weather connectivity to the border areas of Ladakh.
Thakur said the tunnel will be completed by December 2025 at a cost of Rs 1,681 crore.
The tunnel will provide all-weather road connectivity to Ladakh and this will be the shortest route to the border areas of the union territory, he said.
"The Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) today approved the Shinku La tunnel for Ladakh area which will provide all-weather connectivity to the Ladakh region with the entire country.
"This (project) is also very important as far as the security and safety of the country is concerned.... It will also help in the movement of our security forces in that region," he added.
Sources said the tunnel project is a significant step in terms of security perspective as Nimu in Ladakh is close to Kargil as well as Leh and will help the armed forces in quicker deployment of forces and equipment in the region if there is any tense situation.
The ITBP, which has about 90,000 personnel in its ranks, was raised in the aftermath of the 1962 Chinese aggression.
According to the government sanction, the fresh manpower will be utilised for manning 47 new border posts and a dozen 'staging camps' or troops bases to be created along the LAC, largely in Arunachal Pradesh.
In order to ensure effective guarding of the LAC, these new bases were sanctioned in 2020 and now seven battalions comprising about 9,400 personnel and a new sector headquarters have been approved, a senior officer said.
Thakur said a non-recurring expenditure of Rs 1,808.15 crore is estimated to be spent for land acquisition, creation of office and residential buildings, and arms and ammunition while there will be a recurring annual expenditure of Rs 963.68 crore under the salaries and rations head for the fresh manpower.
Officials said the creation of 47 new border posts will lead to a 26 per cent increase in the strength of these bases while the induction of 9,400 fresh personnel will enhance the force's strength by 10 per cent. The force has 176 border posts at the LAC currently.
Before the new tunnel project in Ladakh, Thakur noted that the Atal tunnel was inaugurated and dedicated by Prime Minister Modi. The Atal tunnel links Manali to Leh and provides all-weather connectivity throughout the year.
Another tunnel which is under construction is the Zojila tunnel on the Srinagar-Kargil-Leh national highway which will be dedicated soon.
Thakur said after the Shinkun La tunnel is built it will help connect the Ladakh area, especially the Zanskar valley, with the entire country.