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Indian Prime Minister Modi inaugurates Manali tunnel

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Indian Prime Minister Modi inaugurates Manali tunnel

Jasbir Malhi
Photo: Jasbir Malhi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will today open the 9.02km Atal Tunnel, which connects the Indian city of Leh to the town of Manali and will allow year-round access to Ladakh territory on the border with China.

Ladakh is the Indian-controlled border area in the highly contested Jammu and Kashmir region, where 20 Indian soldiers were killed in June in a brawl with Chinese troops over the contested Line of Actual Control. China and India have been aggressively completing infrastructure projects in or near the contested areas to solidify control. The Atal Tunnel is the newest and largest Indian infrastructure project that will enable the Indian military to rapidly deploy to the Ladakh region.

In the short term, expect China to reciprocate by expanding its growing list of military infrastructure projects in the region and potentially testing India’s resolve in the region by instigating more unarmed clashes. In the long term, continuous escalation of conflict will lead to increasingly complex scenarios. It is possible that both sides will seek formal negotiations or de-escalation procedures to prevent more advanced military assets from becoming engaged in the border conflicts.

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