NEW DELHI – Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday inaugurated a 9.15km (5.68-mile) bridge over the Lohit river, which connects the disputed state of Arunachal Pradesh with the north-eastern state of Assam.
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“This bridge’s name will be Bhupen Hazarika Bridge,” PM Modi declared in a public address, after he inaugurated what was provisionally called the Dhola-Sadiya Bridge in Assam.
The opening of the bridge was described by Modi as “the fulfilment of Vajpayee’s dream”.
Modi also congratulated the BJP government in Assam which has just completed one year in power, after decades of Congress rule, the Times of India reported.
Construction of the Dhola Sadiya bridge began in 2011.
“It was real tough work, a major engineering challenge, and the speed was slightly affected by some compensation issues,” said an official from Navayuga Engineering, the company which constructed the bridge.
The bridge will reduce travel time by as much as eight hours for communities on either side of the river.
A military engineer said that the Dhola-Sadiya bridge is also capable of supporting 60-ton battle tanks.
India has already raised two mountain divisions and is going ahead with raising a strike corps to beef up its defences against China which claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own, and refers to it as “southern Tibet”.
Beijing recently strongly objected to India’s decision to allow Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama to visit the state and has also protested against the development of military infrastructure there.
But India has defended its right to do so.
“With China getting more and more aggressive, it is time we strengthened our physical infrastructure to defend our territory,” India’s junior Home Minister Khiren Rijiju, a native of Arunachal Pradesh, told journalists.
Rijiju had earlier said that “Arunachal Pradesh is part of India and that reality will not change, regardless of who likes it or not”.