Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to inaugurate India's longest road tunnel in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir under heavy security cover. Separatists have called for a total shutdown in the valley to protest against Modi's visit on Sunday, 2 April.
The 9.2km-long Chenani-Nashri tunnel is on the Jammu-Srinagar highway bringing the two main cities closer by 41kms and cutting down travel time by two hours. Modi is also scheduled to address a public gathering in the restive state following the inauguration.
The federal government hopes to save fuel worth Rs 900m (£11m) with the project calling it a game-changer in Kashmir's infrastructure. "It is a matter of great pride for the people of Jammu and Kashmir that this great tunnel is being dedicated to the nation by none other than Prime Minister Narendra Modi - the most popular PM. It is dedicated to the nation in keeping with his call for a new India," Jitendra Singh, federal minister from Modi's office, told reporters.
The tunnel will also serve as an alternative route if the main highway is shut due to snow and other adverse weather conditions. In addition, the tunnel will be the country's first to have transverse ventilation system – which is necessary to give fresh air to travellers against emission from vehicles. Built at a cost of Rs 25bn (£307m), the highway is among the longest in Asia and is constructed at a height of 1,200 metres.
For the inauguration ceremony, ground-to-air security has been stepped up. Border areas have also been placed on high alert and vital installations are being thoroughly checked. Modi will make his fourth address in Kashmir since becoming India's prime minister.
Meanwhile, several separatist factions have urged people to demonstrate against Modi calling for a state-wide strike. In a joint statement released by multiple separatist organisations, they said: "All rhetoric about development or construction of tunnels and roads are futile and will not succeed in luring us."