Blog on Sikkim.

Monday, December 03, 2007

At Nathula, Antony comes, sees and admits to poor infrastructure

By Sudhakar Jagdish


Gangtok, Dec 2: The gate at the Nathula border post on the Indian side has the famous inscription of Julius Caesar-Veni, Vidi and Vici (I came, I saw and I conquered), but for Defence Minister A K Antony it changed to something like this -I came, I saw and I admitted to the poor conditions of roads on our side.

The stark contrast of Indian roads was eye pinching if one just looked over the Chinese border where the three-inch plastic cover roads seemed even better than what Rajpath in New Delhi has.

Antony too was overwhelmed by the fact and termed the contrast as an 'eye-opener'.

"Chinese have gone very far in developing infrastructure on their side," Antony said, adding, " There is no comparison between our side and their side. So, that is the problem."

Flanked by Chief of Army Staff, General Deepak Kapoor, Antony shook hands with some Chinese army officials posted at the 14,200 feet border post, who were aware of an Indian dignitary visiting the site, but were caught off-guard when they came to know that Indian Defence Minister is the person with whom they exchanged greetings. It was a big surprise for them as no Chinese Defence Minister has visited the trade post in the recent years.

Antony, who was in Sikkim for a 24-hour visit spanning in two days, was briefed about the poor infrastructure in the border region of the State that became a State of India in 1975, a bitter pill for the Chinese, which they took almost three decades to accept it.

With China aggressively pursuing building roads, rails, and air links to its border region with India that still needs to be resolved, the army officers manning the border posts developed cold feet.

They demanded better road connectivity, at least along the 3500-km long the Indo-China border, but it did not stir up the Defence Ministry mandarins at the South Block.

Only after the September rainfall this year that led to huge landslides on National Highway 31-alpha, cutting the border State of Sikkim from the rest of the country, the 17 Mountain Division posted there sent almost an SOS like message to the South Block bureaucrats that infrastructure has to be developed in this part of the country, lest the weather vagaries could make the situation 'precarious', sources said.

Antony has taken the matter seriously, now, and also termed the construction of communication infrastructures in the border region states of Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh and Mizoram, as the "necessity of the day."

Antony prioritised his first visit to Sikkim after taking over as Defence Minister for 'assessing the ground situation in the border areas'. During various briefing sessions that he had with army and state officials, the main agenda was improving infrastructure. He had also flown with him Director General of Border Roads Organisation, Lt General A K Nanda, for the same purpose.

Antony is expected to highlight the issue in the Cabinet. He is also likely to put forth the issue before the Finance Ministry and the Planning Commission in a strong way.

When asked as to how long it would take to the state-of-the art roads from India to reach its border trade post at Nathula, Antony said, "Rome was not built in a day," indicating that it will take a few good years before that region boasts of the same kind of infrastructure that Beijing has built on its side.
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When i started my blog on Sikkim way back in 2007, i had it clear on my mind that this blog shall help people look out for knowledge on Sikkim. I always wanted a knowledge house about Sikkim, its past, present and future. I do not know over the years how much did i succeed but my determination to let other understand my Sikkim is always giving me a push. with regards Shital Pradhan (himalayanreview@gmail.com)

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