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India-China tension leads to infrastructural development in Ladakh

Last Updated on June 24, 2021 at 8:11 pm

Confrontation between China and India have become deadliest during the recent times. Though two sides agreed on a simultaneous military disengagement from one part of their contested border in the region of Ladakh, tensions still remain high.

Since the risk remains high the mountainous region of Ladakh is witnessing a major infrastructural overhaul which is creating both hope and fear among the local people. 

Infrastructural improvements in Ladakh include new tunnels and roads being cut in the toughest terrains of the Himalayan region where temperature even drops to minus 40 degrees Celsius. Internet connectivity has been increased, telephone networks are being provided in the faraway border areas.

Though infrastructural changes are taking place but these conflicts between borders simultaneously impacts various other factors as well. These conflicts can weigh heavily on tourism in Ladakh.

Pangong Tso lake is the world’s highest blue-water lake spanning eastern Ladakh and West Tibet at an elevation of 14,000 feet (4,270 meters) above the sea level which was a majorly publicized conflict point between the troops of both countries.

Later on mutual decisions on disengagement by both sides were taken. The lake is also a world-famous tourist destination. The lake is open for tourism and the movement of tourists is being allowed up to Merak, a picturesque village of about 40 houses on the south bank of the lake.

Tenzin Dorjee of Man village said that peace has gone away from here. “They were doing business as usual but indications of crisis can be felt”, said Dorjee.

He further added that before the crises they witnessed major footfall of tourists which is now replaced by Indian army who patrol throughout the day. “Border conflicts and later Covid-19 pandemic fuelled the impact on the business”, he said. He further said that due to Chinese army and fear of war tourists hesitate to come and stay here.

“Tourists are not visiting here and staying in nearby villages which have impacted their livelihood which led them to work with Indian army in road construction to feed their family”, said Dorjee.

Abhishek Sharma, a member of an adventure bikers’ group from New Delhi, said they had planned a home stay at Man village but were forced to change the plans because of the situation.

Abdul Majeed Jamsheed, 65, a retired government official from Hunder village in Nubra valley, said it would take them six days on horseback to reach Leh town until the Kargil War between India and Pakistan erupted in 1999. “Due to conflicts they have seen changes ongoing in border villages”, he said.

Jamsheed further said that these border conflicts may be temporary but because of them, frontier people become important for the country and favors extended to the military are received by locals too.

A defense official said that due to infrastructural developments the whole face of Ladakh has been changed.

“For movement of troops to the border proper infrastructure and roads needs to be developed. The pace of work is so quick that we pressed in combat engineers to complete the construction work planned for five years in just over five months”, he said.

India is also making efforts to complete the 14.2-kilometer-long (8.8-mile) Zoji La tunnel connecting Sonmarg in Kashmir to Drass town in Ladakh which was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in May 2018.