New Delhi: Amid the border row with China, India is expediting work on a strategic road linking Darcha in Himachal Pradesh with Ladakh that will crisscross a number of high-altitude snow-bound passes, official sources said on Tuesday. They said the nearly 290-km-long road will be crucial for the movement of the troops and heavy weaponry into the frontier bases of the Ladakh region and will provide a crucial link to the Kargil region. It will be the third road link to Ladakh after the other two roads: the Manali-Leh road and Srinagar-Leh highway. The work on reopening an alternative road to Ladakh from Himachal Pradesh has been expedited as it is a strategically key road, said an official on condition of anonymity, adding the project is expected to be completed by the end of 2022. The sources said various road projects are being expedited for movement of troops to various key areas like Daulat Beg Oldie as well as Depsang along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh. The Border Roads Organisation is also working on another crucial road connecting Ladakh with Depsang plains. The road will provide access to the Sub-Sector North (SSN) in Ladakh. The trigger for the standoff in eastern Ladakh was China's stiff opposition to India laying a key road in the Finger area around the Pangong Tso Lake besides construction of another road connecting the Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie road. The road in the Finger area in Pangong Tso is considered crucial for India to carry out patrols. India has already decided not to stall any border infrastructure projects in eastern Ladakh. Last month, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh reviewed the progress of various infrastructure projects that are under construction in border areas including in Ladakh region at a high-level meeting. In the meeting, he had instructed the Border Roads Organisation to expedite work on the road linking Darcha with Ladakh, the sources said. India and China have held several rounds of military and diplomatic talks in the last two-and-half months but no significant headway has been made in resolution of the border row in eastern Ladakh. The formal process of disengagement of troops began on July 6, a day after a nearly two-hour telephonic conversation between National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on ways to bring down tensions in the area. However, the process has not moved forward since mid-July. The Chinese military has pulled back from Galwan Valley and certain other friction points but the withdrawal of troops has not moved forward in Pangong Tso, Depsang and a couple of other areas, sources said. In the five rounds of corps commander-level talks, the Indian side has been insisting on complete disengagement of Chinese troops at the earliest, and immediate restoration of status quo ante in all areas of eastern Ladakh prior to April. Even as both sides have been engaged in diplomatic and military talks, the Indian Army is making elaborate preparation to maintain its current strength of troops in all key areas in eastern Ladakh in the harsh winter months.
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