Modi’s Hercules plane lands on a new Indian highway.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi landed in a Hercules transport plane on India’s newest highway on Tuesday, in a spectacular stunt that highlights the country’s dual-use roads that double as military emergency airstrips.
The giant plane carrying Modi landed on a straight stretch of the new highway in Uttar Pradesh before a brief air show by the Indian Air Force with French-made Mirage jets and Russian Su-30MKIs using the road as a landing strip.
“India’s prosperity is as important as our national security. This highway has become a new fortress for our Air Force,” Modi said in a public meeting at the event.
India has another hybrid highway in the state of Rajasthan, near the border with Pakistan.
But the government plans another 12 as it increases its military capabilities in the face of mounting tensions with China and as it deepens defense ties with the United States and other Western nations.
The nearly 350-kilometer Purvanchal Highway opened by Modi, 71, is also part of a multi-million dollar effort to upgrade India’s underdeveloped road network.
Modi’s government says it has improved or developed more than 50,000 kilometers of roads across the country since it came to power in 2014. It plans to build another 11,000 kilometers in 2021.
The six-lane Purvanchal Highway connects the regional capital, Lucknow, with the largely underdeveloped eastern regions of Uttar Pradesh, which holds key elections in early 2022.
Authorities said the highway, which costs nearly $ 3 billion, will cut travel time to 3.5 from six hours from Lucknow to the easternmost district of Ghazipur state.
The state, which is run by the Hindu nationalist Modi party, says the road network will boost economic development in the region and promote tourism in cities like Ayodhya, a major Hindu holy city.