Modi steps up Ladakh defence, clears Shinkun La tunnel

Modi steps up Ladakh defence, clears Shinkun La tunnel

The new tunnel under 16,703 feet Shinkun La will allow all-weather connectivity to Ladakh from Himachal Pradesh via Manali-Darcha axis and allow faster deployment of Indian troops to tackle any flare up in Kargil-Siachen sector with Pakistan or with PLA in East Ladakh.

In a significant step that will steel defence of Ladakh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today cleared a 4.1 kilometer tunnel under Shinkun La on Manali-Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis to allow all weather connectivity to the Union Territory and cater to continuous supply of troops and equipment in the worst case scenario with either of the two adversaries.

The Border Roads Organization had made a black top road on Darcha-Padam-Nimu axis in 2019 but the road could not be used in winter months due to heavy snow on 16703 feet high Shinkun La. The road is 
critical to the defence of Ladakh as it is sheltered from both Pakistani and Chinese long range artillery or missile firing unlike the exposed Srinagar-Drass-Kaksar-Kargil highway near LoC and the Manali-Upshi-Leh highway near the LAC respectively. It was the Darcha-Padam-Nimu route which was used by the Indian Army to send arms and ammunition supplies to East Ladakh after Chinese PLA belligerence on the LAC in May 2020.

The decision to clear the tunnel under Shinkun L:a makes strategic sense as to achieve all weather connectivity on Manali-Upshi-Leh highway, the government would have to construct some 38 kilometers of tunnels under Baralacha La, Lachulung La and Taglang La, all passes touching heights of over 16000 feet which remained snowed in for at least five months a year.

Although the Defence Ministry gave the proposal to build a tunnel under Shinkun La to the Ministry of Highways and Road Transport in 2017 itself, the department was in favour of a 13 kilometer tunnel under Shinkun La, which would link it with the existing Darcha-Upshi-Leh highway. Given the terrain and the inclement sub-arctic temperatures the proposal hung fire till it was handed over to BRO in 2020 after the Chinese transgressions.

Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared the tunnel and the approach roads on both sides at the Cabinet meeting. The total cost of the project will be
 1681.51 crore and will be completed by December 2025. Since the BRO has already done road cutting and black topping of the approaches on both sides to Shinkun La, the government will now only have to complete the 4.1 km underground pass.

The step is very significant as Nimu in Ladakh is close to Kargil as well as Leh, the headquarters of the UT. This means that the Indian Army can do faster deployment of forces and equipment if a situation flares up in Kargil-Siachen sector or in East Ladakh sector all along the 1597 km LAC in the UT.