India has unveiled plans to build a mountain road along the disputed border with China in the country’s remote north-east.
The $6.5bn (£4.06bn), 1,800km (1,118 miles) all-weather road will stretch from Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh state to where the borders of India and China meet with Myanmar.
The road will connect sparsely populated and poorly-connected hill communities living in four large frontier districts of Arunachal Pradesh.
It will also help farmers in the mountainous region to transport their organic crops and medicinal herbs to low-lying and busy markets in neighbouring Assam state.
“This road will not boost our defences but help connect far flung communities for economic development denied to them for so long,” says India’s junior home minister Khiren Rijiju, himself a resident of Arunachal Pradesh.
But Indian military officials say the road will help consolidate Indian defences.
This represents a change in Indian military thinking that has so far opposed developing roads near the border, in case it is used by the Chinese during a conflict for speedy movement inside Indian territory.
The road, however, could could ignite fresh tensions between India and China.
The world’s two most populous countries disagree over the demarcation of several Himalayan border areas and fought a brief war in 1962.