India begins rebuilding WWII's Stilwell Road to China

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DELHI -- India has begun reconstructing the 1,000-mile Stilwell Road connecting it to China via Burma, more than six decades after the route was built to supply Chinese forces fighting Japanese occupation.

Work began on the Indian section last month and the whole road is scheduled to re-open by 2009, providing the fastest land route between India, Southeast Asia and China.

The road –- named after Joseph Stilwell, the American general who supervised its construction -– passes through some of Asia’s densest jungle and is one of the engineering feats of the Second World War.

Winston Churchill described the project, which took 15,000 US soldiers and 35,000 locals three years to build, as “an immense, laborious task, unlikely to be finished until the need for it has passed”.

He was almost right. Finished in 1945, it provided a life-line to Chinese nationalist forces for ten months, but fell into disrepair after the end of the war and was soon engulfed by jungle and mudslides.

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