In a key move aimed at improving all weather connectivity and enabling the swift movement of Indian troops to Arunachal Pradesh bordering China, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday laid the foundation stone for the Sela Tunnel Project, a Defence Ministry statement said.

The tunnel is being built at an estimated cost of 687 crores by the Border Roads Organisation and is to be completed in three years.

It aims to provide all weather connectivity to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh — an area claimed entirely by China — and other forward areas. Once built it will cut travel time to Tawang by at least an hour for Indian troops stationed in adjoining Assam’s Tezpur town — the headquarters of the Indian army’s IV Corps.

“It (the project) covers a total distance of 12.04 kms which consist of two tunnels of 1790 metres and 475 meters," the Defence Ministry statement said.

“ Once completed this would result in all weather connectivity to Tawang and forward areas and reduction in more than one hour of travelling time from Tezpur to Tawang," the statement said.

“All weather connectivity to Tawang would be a game changer for the local population ahead of Sela apart from the much required strategic edge for our security forces," it added. 

The lack of motorable roads and rail connections in India’s northeast and Arunachal Pradesh in particular were seen as distinct disadvantages for India vis a vis China in the region. Many analysts had been warning of China building infrastructure including access roads right up to the Indian border that would give it a strategic advantage in any conflict with India.

The past few years have seen New Delhi stepping up infrastructure connectivity in the northeast with new airports and railway connections coming up in the region.