New Delhi: An Indian Army convoy on Wednesday passed through the newly-built Atal Tunnel near Manali in Himachal Pradesh for the first time ever. The newest attraction for tourists visiting the state, the 9.02-km underpass connects Lahaul of Lahaul-Spiti district and Manali of Kullu district in Himachal Pradesh.Also Read - 80-Year-Old Man Travels 230 Km on Moped to Pay Homage to His Comrades From 1971 Indo-Pak War

The new tunnel, billed as the world’s longest highway tunnel, cut short the distance between Manali and Leh (in Union Territory of Ladakh) by 46 km, that is, four to five hours of travel time. It has been built at a cost of over Rs 3,000 crore. Also Read - IAF Chopper Crash: Black Box, Cockpit Voice Recorder of Ill-fated Mi-17VH Helicopter Recovered, Crucial Data Soon

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Earlier this month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the ‘strategically-important ’ Atal Tunnel in Rohtang district of Himachal Pradesh and took a swipe at the opposition Congress as he said that the defence interests of the country were “compromised” for a long time.

“Nothing is more important for us than the defence of the country. But for a long time, the country has also witnessed an era when the defence interests of the country were compromised. The Air Force of the country kept demanding a modern fighter plane, while they kept opening and closing files after files, and kept playing around with those files,” the prime minister said after inaugurating the tunnel.

Meanwhile, Home Minister Amit Shah said it was a historic day for the entire country as the vision of Bharat Ratna and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee came true.

Being an all-weather tunnel, it will also connect Lahaul-Spiti with the rest of the country throughout the year which used to be cut off for months earlier, he noted.