China opened a new expressway from Lhasa to Nyingchi today. It is a 409 km long highway with a speed limit of 80 km/hr. The 8-hour journey from Tibet’s provincial capital Lhasa to Nyingchi has now been shortened to only 5 hours. The inauguration of this expressway has caused a surge in infrastructure on the other side of the border as well. While China says that the expressway is a means to connect two major cities and tourist attractions in Tibet, India sees it as a threat to the borders near Arunachal Pradesh, Nyingchi being quite close to the borders.
The border between the two countries is known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC) and it has been disputed for a long time now. Beijing claims that Arunachal Pradesh is a part of China and calls it South Tibet, while New Delhi claims that parts of Aksai Chin were occupied by China during the war in 1962. The border is 3488 km long and has been a reason of tensions between the two countries. Both countries have mutually had many rounds of talks each with their own Special Representatives. The latest one was the stand-off in Doklam to resolve the boundary dispute, when New Delhi stepped in to stop Beijing from building a new road in the plateau which would provide access to Beijing.
Even though China has not yet allowed heavy trucks to use the expressway, the inauguration of the expressway so close to the border will certainly make it easy for transport of military vehicles, rations and equipment. While there was access to the border before the inauguration too, the expressway will certainly make the transport faster and easier. The cost of building the expressway came at $5.8 billion, nearly 38 billion Yuan and is currently toll-free, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency reports.