Centre to keep spending on border roads after 30% Budget overrun on China fears

    The Hawk
    February1/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    In response to heightened tensions with China, the Indian government pledges increased funding for border roads, allocating Rs 6,500 crore for the Border Roads Organisation in the 2024 budget.

    Visuals from Eastern Ladakh, in Leh

    New Delhi: The central government will maintain increased funding to build roads near China border after spending 30 per cent more on them this fiscal year than planned, it said on Thursday, citing tension between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

    The countries have been in a military standoff since July 2020 when at least 24 Indian and Chinese troops were killed in the worst clashes between the two sides in five decades.

    India will match the Rs 6,500 crore ($783.41million) above the amount scheduled for this year for the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) responsible to build such roads for next year "in the light of the continued threat perception faced at the Indo-China border," the government said in a statement after presenting the Budget.

    The BRO was initially given Rs 5,000 crore for the fiscal year 2023/24 that ends on March 31.

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    The government has allocated Rs 6.21 lakh crore for defence for next year given the "current geopolitical scenario and with the twin objective of promoting self reliance and exports". This is marginally below the Rs 6.24 lakh crore spending it estimates in the current year.

    Since the 2020 clashes, military and diplomatic talks have helped to ease tensions, but the situation is precarious and opposing troops clashed twice in 2022, even as peace talks were ongoing.

    As it intends to modernise its military and nurture a nascent domestic arms industry, the government has given defence 13 per cent, the largest share for any sector, of the Rs 47.65 lakh crore-Budget presented on Thursday.

    More than a quarter of the defence budget, Rs 1.72 lakh crore is for the forces to buy arms and ammunition, but salaries and pensions take the most, at Rs 2.80 lakh crore for the 14-million strong military.