Amidst the ongoing tensions between India and China along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) over the border dispute in eastern Ladakh resulting in military buildup by both the sides, the Indian security establishment, understanding the seriousness of the border infrastructure, seems to be hurrying upon completing the infrastructure projects that are critical to national security.
According to an ANI report, the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is expected to complete the work on the 255 Km-long strategic Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road including eight bridges. The BRO will also finish blacktopping at some of the stretches by the end of this year.
“We are planning that the work on the entire stretch should be complete by the end of this year which includes eight bridges of different sizes and blacktopping of the road at some of the stretches,” government sources said to ANI.
The report said that senior sources in the government told them that the labour workforce from Jharkhand has started the movement towards the high altitude locations in Ladakh. The workforce in Jharkhand is considered to be the most suited for working in this hilly terrain as they adapt to the conditions there very well, the sources said to ANI.
With the construction of DSDBO road, there will be a reduction in time of travel for the Indian security forces moving from Leh to Daulat Beg Oldi to six hours.
The BRO gets a very narrow working window in the Eastern Ladakh sector as only four to five months available due to the extreme cold conditions there. The construction of the strategic road has been making for over two decades now, but a special focus was laid on it after the Narendra Modi government came to power in 2014.
Northern Army Commanders, the Border Roads Organisation project chief engineers and commanders of the 81 Brigade looking after DBO have been working in close coordination in the last many years to make sure that the project is completed in time. The engineers also keeping in mind regarding the manner in which the road remains an all-weather road.
The bridge connecting the Patrolling Point 14 in Galwan area with the territory across the Shyok river is also linked to the strategic road.
Strategic importance of Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DSDBO) road
The DSDBO road, which runs parallel to LAC, passes through altitude ranging between 13,000 ft and 16,000 ft connecting Ladakh’s capital city Leh, through the villages of Darbuk and Shyok at southern Shyok Valley, with the Daulat Beg Oldi (DBO) post near the China border.
The strategic road which has now caused worry for the Chinese, is actually not new but large segments have been realigned and rebuilt by the BRO. The construction of the DSDBO Road by the Border Road Organization (BRO) began 19 years ago in the year 2000 under direct monitoring of the PMO. It was fast-tracked in 2014 after Narendra Modi became the Prime Minister of the country.
The strategic importance of the DSDBO road is that it connects Leh to DBO, virtually to the base of the Karakoram pass that separates China’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region from Ladakh. DBO is the northernmost corner of Indian territory in Ladakh, in the area better known as Sub-Sector North by the Indian Army.
Most importantly, from the DSDBO road, a road is being built towards Galwan Valley, a hill feature. The branch road, which is critical for India to overlook the LAC has prompted the Chinese to object and start the current stand-off in Galwan Valley.
For years, the Indian troops have been patrolling near these areas. However, with all-weather road connectivity will provide a huge advantage to Indian troops. Meanwhile, China has objected to the construction of the road and does not want India to continue the construction of the DSDBO, which has now led to the ongoing confrontations.
Incidentally, Daulat Beg Oldi also has the world’s highest airstrip, originally built during the 1962 war but abandoned until 2008, when the Indian Air Force (IAF) revived it as one of its many Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) along the LAC, with the landing of an Antonov An-32.
The Indian Army maintains helipads and a gravel airstrip here, the highest airstrip in the world. The outpost is strategically important as it helps Indian Armed Forces to keep a check on Chinese troops that patrols along the Line of Actual Control.
DSBDO highway gives direct access to Tibet-Xinjiang highway, Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir
Reportedly, The under-construction DSDBO highway gives a strategic advantage to the Indian military as it provides direct access to the section of the Tibet-Xinjiang highway that passes through Aksai Chin. The road runs almost parallel to the LAC at Aksai Chin, which is part of Union Territory of Ladakh, which was later occupied by China in the 1950s, leading to the 1962 war in which India.
The DSDBO’s emergence has resulted in Chinese getting increasingly worried, which was evident by PLA troops intruding into India in 2013 at Depsang Plains, lasting nearly three weeks.
Additionally, the Pakistan-occupied areas of Gilgit Baltistan, which is west of DBO is the region, can also be overseen once the strategic DSDBO road is completed. The Gilgit Baltistan is also the region where China is funding the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir (PoK), to which India has expressed strong objection.
The DSDBO, which ends at Daulat Beg Oldi is at the northern tip, just south of the areas which were ceded by Pakistan to China in under a Sino-Pakistan Boundary Agreement, contested by India.