The Chinese Must Stop Obsessing Over Arunachal Pradesh

William Dalrymple’s “The Last Mughal” is a brilliant book in which the Scottish historian describes that how after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, the Mughal dynasty started running into problems. While a majority of the Muslim population continued their allegiance with the then Emperor of Delhi, the Sikhs, Marathas and the British who comprised of the East India Company saw this as great opportunity to augment their power. In this quest, it were the British who proved the most successful. Why? Simply because they had their plans right in place, they had a well formulated business plan which they were all set to implement on a world scale. In India, they saw tremendous potential because of the land’s fertile soil, its rich mines, its temperate climate and it’s abundance of water sources. This is what is probably alluring the Chinese also to India.

According to a report by Livemint, in December 2022, the Indo-Pacific Centre for Strategic Communications (IPCSC) said that the numerous attempts of the Chinese to step into India was in a bid to collect Cordyceps, which is supposed to be highly expensive herbal drug in China. It is said that in the last two years, the harvest of Cordyceps has drastically gone down in Qinghai, which is the largest producing region of the fungus in China. The Chinese believe that Cordyceps has the potency to cure a host of ailments, albeit the fact that there is no concrete scientific evidence to prove the same. The Chinese aren’t interested in India for no reason.

Arunachal Pradesh is one state that the Chinese constantly try to creep in through. This is the same part where there was a confrontation between the armies of India and China on Dec. 9, 2022. But this was not the first time such an incident happened. The burning problem is that China claims almost 90,000 sq km of Arunachal Pradesh, almost the whole state to be its own. They call the area “Zangnan” in their language and even their maps show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China. From time to time, the so called dragon makes sustained efforts to stake claim of this wonderful part of India. As part of this strategy, it has also given Chinese names to certain places in Arunachal Pradesh. Till 2021, twenty one such names were known to be published.

India has rightly called this invention of names as sheer fantasy. Last year, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said unequivocally that since the state of Arunachal Pradesh has and will always remain an integral part of India. Giving Chinese names to certain places will not alter that fact under any circumstances.

The Chinese have been attempting to build more infrastructure along the Line of Actual Contronol (LAC). In August 2022 people of the state’s Anjaw district  captured videos that showed the Chinese Army doing construction work near Chagalam’s Hadigara-Delta 6, which usually takes a few days for an individual to reach the spot. Chaglagam happens to be the last post of Indian administration near the LAC. India knows that the answer to the Chinese of building infrastructure is to make its own infrastructure stronger. Any country’s roads infrastructure directly impacts the economic and social development of the area. In a quest to secure the entire Mcmohon line, India has initiated the 2000 km long Frontier Highway which will help India keep an eye on China’s incursions. The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) and Border Roads Organisation (BRO) will jointly execute the development of this highway. The highway will start at Tawang then go through East Kameng, Upper Subansri, Tuting, Menchuka, Upper Siang, Debang Valley, Desali, Changlangam, Kibithoo, Dong, Hawai, Vijaynagar and finally end in Myanmar. Sources in Arunachal Pradesh say that the purpose of this road is to connect the West to the East along the North Bank. It is a strategically important project, first for the armed forces and the logistics support system. Secondly, it will be for the sake of people because in this area there is no proper road infrastructure system in this tract. Thinning of population has been happening and people are migrating from there due to a lack of communication infrastructure. The state needs to have people living along the international border for national safety. Just recently the Government has declared National Highway 913, so things are gaining momentum. 

Bengia Ajum, Vice President of Arunachal Press Club (APC) is a senior journalist who also calls himself a proud tribal. Ajum said that Chinese incursion still keeps happening, as the Chinese Army is present along the Mcmohon line in huge numbers. “We are hoping that along with road connectivity internet services will also be made available. Because of the grim situation in the area, people flock to the district headquarters, towards Itanagar in search of livelihood. If the area is not developed then it will become very easy for the Chinese to step in further.”  Ajum further said that the Frontier Highway Project will not only benefit people and stop the migration, but will also hugely benefit the army. The locals living there are well aware of the terrains and they are an asset to national security. Also, the Indian villages along the Mcmohon line will greatly benefit from the project as it will open gateways for trade for them. It will also be a boost for tourism in the area. We hope the Government is able to finish the project soon and things move faster.

How is the political scenario in the state? What are people’s political inclinations like in these areas. Ajum says that  Arunachal Pradesh is a small state with a small population. So, whoever comes to power people come out in its support hoping there will be improvement in the current situation. People here are not much inclined to political groups. They did not choose to become part of India, it rather happened by default. Kiren Rijiju is one of us and people are proud to have him as a minister with the centre but we hope that the Frontier project will be completed soon; for the betterment and upliftment of the people of Arunachal Pradesh, informed Ajum. About the Dec. 9, 2022 skirmish between the Indian and Chinese forces Ajum said that it was not that major as portrayed by the media. The situation was quickly dealt with by the Indian forces. The Chinese habitually intrude through the Tawang region in the Yangste area and Indian forces are adequately prepared to deal with any misadventure by the adversary. 

People of Arunachal Pradesh expect more development in the area. They want their trade to prosper and for that they need good infrastructure. The Frontier Highway is promising them that, “It will connect many crucial centres in one thread, facilitating smooth movement within the eastern and western parts of the state,” said Public Works Development (PWD) Highway Chief Engineer (CE) of Arunachal Pradesh S. Sumnyan.   

Apart from this the Trans Arunachal Highway and the East West Corridor project are the other crucial border infrastructure projects which are of high strategic importance, which are expected to be complete by 2024-25. When the Frontier highway is complete the three highways are going to be interconnected, which will make it 2178 kilometre six highway corridor, which are going to be Thelamara (Tawang-Nelia) 402 kms, Itakhola(Pakke- Kesang-Seppa Parsi Parlo 391 kms, Gogamukh (Taliho- Tato) 281 kms, Akajan (Jorging-Pango), 398 kms, Pasighat(Bishing Road) 298 kms, Kanubari- Longding 404 kms. These projects will help the forces commute swiftly in what are now very tough and hostile terrains. 

It has become imperative that India further boosts its infrastructure in Arunachal Pradesh as numerous reports suggest that the Chinese have deployed heavy troops on the other side, and they want to capture this beautiful Indian state to get hold of the rich natural resources the land has to offer, but this is not 1962. India is militarily getting stronger and is committed to safeguard Arunachal Pradesh – come whatever may!

[Photo by Arunachal2007, via Wikimedia Commons]

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author.

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