The Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Prof. Prem Kumar Dhumal has cautioned the Central Government and the people against the nefarious designs of China in the entire Himalayan region. In an exclusive interview to Organiser, he said “The situation could be grim any time not only in Ladakh or Tawang but on the border areas of the region. We are more concerned as Himachal Pradesh also shares a long border with Tibet. It’s a matter of national security and no compromise could be accepted in this regard. The Central Government must take some immediate measures to boost the moral of the people living in the border areas. It should expedite the work on proposed Rohtang tunnel and railway track from Pathankot to Leh via Manali.” He accused the UPA Government for delaying these ambitious projects of immense strategic importance.
Prof. Dhumal said China is encircling India from all directions. According to him, after bringing train up to Lhasa, China is busy in lying six railway tracks near Indian border. On the other hand, he said, the Central Government is not serious on his suggestion to build a rail track from Pathankot to Leh via Manali and Keylong. He said, “I had taken up this matter in meetings with the Prime Minister, Railway Minister and the Vice Chairman of Planning Commission. Although, the then Chief of the Army Staff General Deepak Kapoor and the other defence officers had strongly supported the idea to connect Leh- Ladakh with train, the UPA Government remained almost indifferent in this matter.” The Railway Board had conducted a survey on his suggestion and remained mum after that, he added.
On questioning what would be the gain out of this very expensive project, Prof. Dhumal said: “Remember the days of Kargil war when entire Srinagar-Leh road was in the range of Pakistani firing and it was a very difficult task for the army to move from the other parts of the country to Kargil. If we had rail link up to Leh via Himachal, the situation could have been much easier for us. Money should be no consideration as far as the national security of the country is concerned.” He said the importance of railways in the Himalayan region should have been judged after China occupied Tibet in 50s.
When asked about the progress in Rohtang tunnel project, Chief Minister said, its foundation stone was laid down by the then Prime Minister Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2002.The proposed all whether tunnel under the Rohtang pass is to connect the Kullu district with the cold desert of Lahul Spiti. Now a day the Rohtang pass is closed for vehicular traffic for more than six months in a year due to heavy snow. If the tunnel is constructed, it will provide all whether connectivity to our defence forces as Manali-Leh.
National highway is of tremendous strategic importance. It will be an alternative route to Ladakh Kashmir valley. He said, “It is very disappointing that in the last five years, the UPA Government at the Centre could not decide on the tenders of the tunnel construction. In fact, it shows the unconcern of the Congress towards the most important issues related to national security. The Centre is compromising on national security, he said.
Prof. Dhumal said lying Railway tracks up to Leh via Himachal and construction of Rohtang tunnel will improve our security scenario in this part of Himalayas. It could be seen as expensive projects now, but once become functional; it would cut our heavy expenditure occurred on air transportation of troops and arms and ammunitions. It would be much cheaper substitute to present conventional modes of transportation. Not only this, train and tunnels would be contributing in preservation of fragile ecological balance because long route vehicles emit much smoke. The tourism would also get a boost through train in the inner parts of Himalayas.
On another question, the Chief Minister said, “I have been raising the demand to establish ‘Trans Himalaya Development Authority’ for a long time. But now I think the government should create a separate ‘Ministry of Himalayas Affairs’. The Centre must understand the importance of Himalayas. It’s not mere a mountain but the life line for a major part of Asia. The vital issues like security of the nation, preservation of ecology, cultural heritage and growth of economy etc. in the Himalayan region could be well taken care of if a separate ministry is established.” Chinese have established modern infrastructure in Tibet’s areas bordering India and we are far behind it, he added.
When asked about the pilgrimage route to Kailash-Mansarover through Himachal Pradesh, Prof. Dhumal said that in the old days, people used to go there via Kinnour district. This route has been comparatively safe and easy. We have been asking the Central Government time and again to take up this matter with the Chinese authorities. But Center’s response has not been favorable so far.
Prof. Dhumal said, “It is very clear, keeping in view the neighbor’s preparations across the borders, the next war will be fought not in the plains but in the mountains. Kargil was also in the Himalayas. But the Centre is in deep sleep.”