Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Srinagar-Leh national highway widened for T-72 tanks

Against the backdrop of heightened Chinese activity along the Ladakh border, the Srinagar-Leh national highway has been widened to allow passage of T-72 tanks. A senior army commander said it was part of efforts to improve the infrastructure and resources for enhancing the capability of the army. "Last year, an effort was made to see if we can bring in more tanks into this area. Any military force always looks at how to improve its infrastructure, which improves its capabilities," General Officer Commanding of Srinagar-based Chinar Corps Lieutenant General S A Hasnain told reporters."From a military angle, if you find the resources in the areas opposite to you increase and the military capability enhances, it is always a case of worry for you.

Therefore, you have to re-analyse your own resources, your own capabilities," he said. The widening of the Srinagar-Leh road, which passes through Zojila pass at an altitude of 11,500 feet, has been done to facilitate the passage of T-72 tanks following several reports of Chinese incursions into Ladakh region over the past few years. The widening work on the pass was carried out by the 32 Border Roads Task Force (BRTF) and 122 RCC. Hasnain was talking to reporters here, 120 kms from Srinagar, on the opening of the 434-km strategic Srinagar-Leh national highway, which was closed for five months due to heavy snowfall. He said it (use of T-72) has been a requirement for many years in Ladakh region due to the flatness of the terrain. "You can utilise mechanised elements here (in Ladakh) but bringing in mechanised elements by air has been a major problem in the earlier years," he said. Army currently operates Russian-made T-72 tank fleet, which has undergone an upgradation to equip it with thermal imaging capabilities to its night-vision system. On the increased Chinese presence in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, he said it had nothing to do with any particular country but admitted that it should be a cause of concern.

Terming the road as strategically important, Hasnain said there have always been efforts to reopen the road after winter as early as possible. The army commander said he was hopeful that the highway will become an all-weather road in near future. "A feasibility study is being conducted for constructing a tunnel between Srinagar side and Gumri. The study shall be completed in 2012," he said. Lt Gen Hasnain said Ladakh generally faces logistic problems during winter and excessive stocking has to be undertaken.