Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Ladakh visit on Friday introduced many Indians to a new location -- Nimu.
The small village, located about 50 km from Leh, has been on the tourist map of Ladakh but it now has a new identity -- as the location visited by Modi at the height of the border tensions between India and China.
The quaint little village, with a population of 1,100 people as per the 2011 Census, is at the confluence of rivers Indus and Zanskar. It has a hydroelectric power plant known as the Nimu-Bazgo dam and is also used by tourists for rafting.
"Nimu is surrounded by the Zanskar range and is on bank of the river Indus," detailed the statement released by the Press Information Bureau (PIB) on Modi's visit.
But natural beauty aside, Nimu is also of strategic value.
Situated at 11,000 feet, Nimu, near Kargil, proved its worth during the 1999 war. It served the Indian Army well when Pakistan attacked Kargil and resources at the highest level had to be mobilised at very short notice. The experience meant that this brigade headquarter of 14 Corps of the Army was equipped with infrastructure.
According to officials, this was a consideration when Modi's visit was finalised at short notice.
"Nimu has helicopter landing facilities. Up to four choppers can land there. It is also equipped to host an event like the PM's visit. These would have been considered before Nimu was finalised as a destination for his Ladakh visit," an ITBP official told CNN-News18 on condition of anonymity.
Former Northern Army Commander General DS Hooda said, "Nimu is a good place to go where you can brief the PM. Geographically, it is ideal to get a good idea of the location."
During his visit, Modi met personnel of the Army and ITBP posted in Ladakh and was briefed by the military engineering service about the equipment used along the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Modi later visited the Military Hospital where he met the soldiers who were injured in the Galwan Valley clashes with China. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, who was earlier scheduled to visit Ladakh, said in a tweet that Modi's visit will definitely boost the morale of the forces.
भारतीय सेना के रहते देश की सीमाएँ हमेशा सुरक्षित रही हैं। प्रधानमंत्री श्री @narendramodi का आज लद्दाख़ जाकर सेना के जवानों से भेंट करके उनका उत्साहवर्धन करने से निश्चित रूप से सेना का मनोबल और ऊँचा हुआ है।मैं प्रधानमंत्रीजी के इस कदम की सराहना करते हुए उन्हें धन्यवाद देता हूँ। — Rajnath Singh (@rajnathsingh) July 3, 2020
Officials a said choice of Nimu is interesting because Modi gave a geo-political message by landing in Ladakh amid the border tension with China, yet stayed at least 250 km away from the disputed site where regular talks are underway to defuse the situation.
"A VIP visit should not obstruct operational movements or engagements," said a defence ministry official when asked why Nimu was chosen despite it not being anywhere close to the LAC.
Nimu is the reserve brigade headquarter of the Indian Army. Its significance can also be ascertained from the fact that the Border Road Organisation (BRO) is constructing a road from Padum in the Zanskar Valley to Nimu. Once ready, the road will connect Ladakh to Manali via the Lahaul Valley. The 251-km stretch will be a huge boost for Ladakh's connectivity issues.
After the Kargil war, one of the suggestions was to come up with an alternative to the National Highway 1A -- the umbilical chord between Ladakh and India via Srinagar. Modi's visit to Nimu, at a time when China reportedly is objecting to border infrastructure construction, will also be a boost for the place and the roads connecting it and the rest of Ladakh to mainland india.