Infrastructure development in India's northeast is also key to its so-called Look East policy, focusing on southeast Asia. India has been working on a raft of road and bridge projects to improve connectivity with Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar
NEW DELHI: With an eye on China, India has been speeding up infrastructure project construction in the strategic northeastern region of the country, which include 1,819 km of roads completed over the last two years.
The other important projects completed over the last two years in the region include, Pakyong Airport in Sikkim, Rupsi Airport in Assam, 300 MW Kameng and 110 MW Pare hydropower projects in Arunachal Pradesh, said Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER) minister Dr. Jitendra Singh in a written reply to Rajya Sabha on Thursday.
India and China have sparred over hydropower projects in Arunachal, a state that borders China and has the highest potential for hydropower generation in the country. This comes in the backdrop of China’s ambitious $62 billion south-north water diversion scheme of the rivers that feed downstream into the Brahmaputra, known in China as the Yarlung Tsangpo.
As part of Indian government’s strategy of accelerating infrastructure development along the country’s frontier and strengthening intra-state transmission and distribution electricity links, the strategic North Eastern Region Power System Improvement Project is also being expedited.
“Dr. Jitendra Singh said that infrastructure projects taken up in the North Eastern Region inter alia include projects of road and rail connectivity; modernization and development of new airports," according to a 11 February statement from Ministry of Development of North-East Region.
The development of infrastructure in India's northeast is key to the nation’s so-called Look East policy, focusing on southeast Asia. India has been working on a raft of road and bridge projects to improve connectivity with Bangladesh, Nepal, and Myanmar.
This comes in the backdrop of Japan partnering with India to aggressively develop infrastructure projects in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, in an attempt to contain China's influence. Mint first reported about an India-Japan Coordination Forum for Development of North East being set up to focus on strategic projects such as connectivity and road network development, electricity and disaster management.
“Under North Eastern States Roads Investment Programme (Externally Aided Project), construction/upgradation of three roads (Kalitakuchi to Barpeta-58.5 km, Tamulpur to Paneri-43 km and Paneri to Udalgiri-18.4 km) along with five major bridges in Assam and one road (Garobada to Dalu-93.4 km) in Meghalaya have been completed," the statement added.
Japan’ partnership holds special importance for India, given that several multilateral lending agencies have been unwilling to fund projects in the so-called disputed border states in India’s northeast - seen as sensitive, as parts of the region are claimed by China.
“The projects completed in Tripura include Agartala - Sabroom new Rail line project (112 km); 2-laning with paved shoulder of Udaipur- Sabroom Section of NH-44 from km 55.00 to km 128.712; and strengthening and widening works of NH-8 (old NH-44) from km. 284 to km 318; Waterway on river Gomati (Tripura)," the statement added.
With hydropower set to play a key role in the development and integration of India’s northeast region with the mainland, the Union government has been trying to pull out all stops for projects in Arunachal Pradesh to pre-empt threats caused by Chinese plans, by establishing its prior use claim over the waters.
As part of this playbook, India is working on a North East Water Management Authority (NEWMA) to evolve a consolidated strategy for management of the region’s water resources. The apex authority for developing all projects related to hydropower, agriculture, biodiversity conservation, flood control, inland water transport, forestry, fishery, and eco-tourism in the region will spearhead India’s efforts to establish prior user rights on water from the rivers that originate in China.
Of the 2,880km length of the river Brahmaputra, 1,625km is in Tibet, 918km in India, and 337km in Bangladesh. Of the eight river basins in Arunachal Pradesh, Subansiri, Lohit, and Siang are of strategic importance as they are closer to the border with China.