Highway patrol

Indiaroad w

Medog County in Tibet. The chances are that you have never heard of it. WiC is willing to bet you have never been there, either. Until last month, this Himalayan community of 12,000 wasn’t even connected to the outside world by road.

As of October 31, however, Medog was linked to the neighbouring county of Bome, making it the last county in China to be hooked up to the national road network.

Over the past decade China has been on a roadbuilding drive, laying 390,000 kilometres of asphalt. The country’s leadership champions infrastructure provision as a developmental duty and Xinhua’s commentary on the Medog road emphasised that the local people would now have access to cheaper goods and medical care.

All fine and well, but is there another agenda? Hawks in New Delhi say it sends a message to India, which controls Arunachal Pradesh to Medog’s south. China claims all of Arunachal, which it calls South Tibet, and so a decent Chinese road to the de facto border makes India’s army nervous.

By contrast, the roads on the Indian side of the border are narrow and poor quality. From a military standpoint the new Medog link could give the Chinese army an advantage in mobilising quickly. According to The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, the Chinese tried to build the Medog road seven times in the last 50 years. The current $155 million highway, which the newspaper described as a “technological breakthrough”, makes it eight times lucky.

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