Friday, June 19, 2020

Himachal Pradesh: Demand for airstrip in Spiti grows amid increasing India-China tension

Manali: Amid growing tension between India and China, demand to build an airstrip at Rangrik in Spiti valley of Himachal is also growing as Himachal and China shares over 250km border, but has no airstrip in the region. After many surveys in last two decades, state government’s minister said the matter of the airstrip will be taken up afresh.
Spiti and Kinnaur districts of Himachal, which are on high alert these days, share border with China. The position of Indian Army in this area is better than China due to better road connectivity. However, the region has no airport. The nearest airports are Shimla, Kullu and Chandigarh. Many efforts were made and surveys were carried out in the past many years, even Indian Army recommended the airstrip, but the project could not become a reality. Now, after the fresh clashes between armies of both the countries, local leaders and residents think the airstrip is not just need of Spiti but has become a national need.
Tanpa Lote, a resident of Kee village of Spiti said, “There was proposal to build military-cum-civil airstrip either at Rangrik or near Kibber. Our politicians also promised to fulfil our dreams. Chinese helicopters often enter our territory in Spiti. The airport will strengthen our military and local infrastructure. The location is strategically very close to China border but undisputed and under complete jurisdiction of Himachal government. We want to see planes landing here before we die.”
Two-time MP Ram Swaroop Sharma had also assured residents of airstrip in Spiti. Sharma raised the issue in Lok Sabha as well but no concrete step has been taken so far. Now tribal development and agriculture minister Dr Ram Lal Markanda said the proposal will be taken up with the Centre afresh.
19/06/20 Suresh Sharma/Times of India

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