Itanagar: The proposed rail link to Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh got a major boost on Friday with Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) general manager (construction) N K Prasad laying the foundation stone for the NFR’s camp office and rest house in the district headquarters.
Situated at a height of around 10,000 feet along the India-China border, Tawang is of immense strategic importance to India. China has repeatedly been claiming Arunachal Pradesh, especially Tawang, as part of Tibet and routinely objects to any visit by top Indian and foreign leaders, officials and diplomats to the area.
It was also one of the regions where the Indian Army had come under attack from China in the 1962 war.
Going by the importance of the project, chief minister Pema Khandu had in September said, “Railways reaching Tawang would be befitting reply to China.”
Besides being a popular hill station, Tawang is also a place held sacred by the Buddhists. It is home to the 17th-century Tawang Monastery and also the birthplace of the 6th Dalai Lama.
“We are very soon going to connect Tawang with railways. The railway line from Bhalukpong to Tawang will be of 198 km, out of which 177 kms will be under tunnels with very little disturbance to the ecology,” Prasad said.
Prasad said the ambitious railway line is also meant to cut down the travel time as the existing road distance from Bhalukpong to Tawang is around 300 km.
The road distance between Tawang and Itanagar, the capital of Arunachal Pradesh, is around 447 km while that from Guwahati is 462 km via National Highway 13. “The proposed 27-km railway tunnel crossing Sela pass, once completed, will be one of the longest tunnels in the country,” said Prasad.
Tawang extra assistant commissioner Choiki Dondup said “the distant dream of the locals to have Tawang connected with railways is now going to be achieved in reality.”
Congratulating the senior Indian railways officers, Dondup at the same time, also expressed his gratitude to the land owners of Shartso Committee for leasing out the land for the NFR’s camp office initially for a period of three years which can extended or acquired if needed in the future.
To expand railway connectivity and provide a thrust to the strategic state from the security point of view, the ministry of railways had in February 2017, announced to connect Tawang with train communication.
NFR chief administrative officer (construction) M S Chauhan, chief engineer S P Singh and executive members of Shartso committee (land owners) were also present to witness the foundation stone laying ceremony.