India’s External Affairs Minister Subramanium Jaishankar said on August 7, 2023, that the Modi government has significantly enhanced border infrastructure in the last nine years, including along the frontier with China.
In a breakfast meeting with media, he said infrastructure push along the northern border is going to determine India’s response to national security challenges.
The most important border connectivity project between India and Nepal is the Raxaul Kathmandu cross-border railway project. “The Raxaul-Kathmandu cross-border railway project is in the final stage. Once completed, it will connect Kathmandu to India by train.
The railway line will start from Raxaul in Champaran (Bihar) and pass through Birganj, Nijgarh Sinsneri and Khokna in the Lalitpur district near Kathmandu. The train to Raxaul, which will be 136 to 139km long, is seen as New Delhi’s attempt to counter Chinese influence in Nepal.
Once this project becomes operational, goods can be transported directly to Kathmandu from India and third countries. Two-tier trains, both passengers and cargo, will be operational on the line, and 12 trains can operate on the line. Out of the total railway length, 42 km will be completed through tunnels, and 124 Bridges will have to be constructed with 40 curves.
The Indian Railways has undertaken an elaborate exercise to construct a broad rail gauge line from Kokrajhar in Assam to Gelepehu in Bhutan. The estimated cost is one thousand crores. The Northeast Frontier Railway has been tasked with conducting preliminary energy and traffic survey for the new rail link. The total length of the railway track is 57.5km.
“Opening the Bhutan-Assam border through greater connectivity will allow Bhutan to get more tourists,” Jaishankar said. The state of Assam shares the maximum border length compared to any other state in the Northeast.
One of India’s landmark connectivity achievements with Myanmar is the India-Myanmar Trilateral Highway. The total length of the highway is 1400 km. It will start from Moreh in Manipur with Mae Sot in Thailand via Myanmar. This project will link India with South-East Asia by land and give a boost to trade, business, health, education, and tourism ties between the three countries.
Around seventy per cent of work related to the highway development has been accomplished. However, there are big challenges in completing the Trilateral Highway due to the prevailing security situation exist.
“We have done half the work and finding it difficult to complete the other half. We have to engage authorities in Myanmar to complete this project and for access to Sittwe Port,” Jaishankar said. The highway is a critical component of the Look East Policy. There are plans to extend the highway to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam as well. Other projects, such as the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transport Projects, are highly noteworthy.
Apart from the Trilateral Highway, other road connectivity projects include Tamu Kalewa Kalemyo Road, the Rithiddm Road and the proposed Imphal Mandalay Bus Service.
There are a plethora and multitude of challenges and obstacles as a barrier to connectivity. India has friendly relations with most of its fellow states in the subcontinent, excluding Pakistan and Bangladesh.
The borders with Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar are porous in nature, and a part of This porosity has helped inimical elements and non-state actors such as terrorists, drug barons, and traffickers (human, arms, and narcotics) to carry out their illegal activities.
Terrorists in disguise can enter Indian territory and can execute their nefarious plans, which is a matter of national security for India.