India Completes Excavation Work at Strategic All-Weather Sela Tunnel on China Border

Sela Tunnel - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.10.2021
Beijing has never recognised New Delhi’s sovereignty over the state of Arunachal Pradesh, a mountainous state located in the eastern section of the India-China border. Indian media reported recently that around 200 Chinese troops “intruded” into Arunachal Pradesh before some of them were “briefly detained” by the Indian Army and sent back.
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Thursday presided over the "breakthrough blast" on the main tube of the upcoming Sela Tunnel, an all-weather connectivity project in India's Arunachal Pradesh state, which borders China’s Tibet Autonomous Region.
Singh said that the tunnel was important not only for bolstering India’s “national security” but would also lead to the “socio-economic development” of the entire region by boosting tourism and employment opportunities for the locals.
The minister also lauded the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) for “playing a crucial role in enhancing operational readiness” of the Indian security forces.
The BRO is an Indian government agency tasked with construction of roads, bridges and other connectivity projects along the country's border regions.
According to a government release, the “breakthrough blast” marks the end of the excavation work in the high-altitude project. The tunnel, located in the West Kameng district, is expected to be operational by next year.
The foundation stone of the high-altitude tunnel was laid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in February 2019, while construction began in April of the same year. The first blast was carried out in January this year.
The Sela Tunnel comprises two “tubes”, with the first one being 980 metres long and the other being 1,555 metres in length.
“Upon completion, the over 1.5 kilometre tunnel will be one of the longest bi-lane road tunnels in the world, at an altitude above 13,800 feet,” the official statement said.
The ‘breakthrough blast’ ceremony comes a day after China raised objections to the visit of Indian Vice-President M. Venkaiah Naidu to Arunachal Pradesh and rejected New Delhi's claim over the border territory.
Indian Army personnel keep vigilance at Bumla pass at the India-China border in Arunachal Pradesh on October 21, 2012 - Sputnik International, 1920, 11.10.2021
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“The Chinese government has never recognised the so-called Arunachal Pradesh established unilaterally and illegally by the Indian side and firmly opposes the Indian leader's visit to this above-mentioned area,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a briefing on 13 October, when asked about Naidu’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh.
“China urges the Indian side to earnestly respect China's major concerns, stop taking any action that would complicate and expand the boundary issue, and refrain from undermining mutual trust and bilateral relations,” the Chinese official also remarked.
The two Asian powerhouses are already embroiled in a military standoff in the eastern Ladakh region over competing territorial claims which has lasted more than a year.
The dispute remains unresolved in spite of 13 rounds of military commander-level talks between the two nations and several high-level exchanges involving the foreign ministers of both the nations.
India, meanwhile, has rebutted Beijing’s claims by describing Arunachal Pradesh as an “integral” and “inalienable” part of the country.
“Indian leaders routinely travel to the state of Arunachal Pradesh as they do to any other state of India. Objecting to the visit of Indian leaders to a state of India does not stand to reason and understanding of Indian people,” the Indian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
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