The images of Chinese village construction published by news website NDTV earlier this month

Flights of Fantasy

by Group Captain M Panging Pao

Recently there was alarming news that China had constructed a village with 100 plus houses inside Indian territory in Arunachal. According to local sources, satellite images indicate the village in Bisa area near the Lensi river in Limeking circle of Upper Subansiri district, also known as Tsari Chu in Tibet. This news has dominated the print, electronic and social media for the last few days. It appears that there is a bit of false alarm and sensationalisation associated with this news item. Readers may also recall the recent incident of four local youth of Arunachal being captured by the Chinese in the same area and later released near Kibithoo in Anjaw district of Arunachal. Initially reported as ‘being kidnapped’ by the Chinese, later it emerged as a case of getting lost during a hunting trip.

Analysis reveals that the line of actual control (LAC) has remained the same since the 1962 Sino-India war. Since then, the reported village has existed at the same place under Chinese control. However, large-scale construction activity was carried out last year in line with the recently declared Chinese policy of construction of well-off villages as border defence villages along the Indian border in Tibet within 2017 to 2020. This increased construction activity was picked up and reported by NDTV as construction within Indian territory.

It is true that frequent border clashes have occurred even after the Sino-India war of 1962, including at Nathu La in Sikkim in 1967. This was followed by the tense standoff in 1987 at Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal, and the 73-day confrontation over Doklam in Sikkim in 2017. There were Chinese incursions in Asaphila, Tuting and Chaklagam areas of Arunachal Pradesh in 2017-2018. Then there were the violent clashes at Galwan valley and Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh.

It is known that the Chinese have built robust infrastructure in the border areas with all-weather roads, railways, airports and modern villages. It may also be noted that infrastructure along the Indian side has also been expedited with many major projects being completed. The major projects include the road/rail bridge over the Brahmaputra in Bogibeel near Dibrugarh, the 9.15 km long bridge over the Lohit river, the 6.5 km long Bomjir bridge over the Dibang river, the bridge over the Sisiri river near Dambuk, commissioning of six ALGs in Pasighat, Ziro, Mechuka, Aalo, Tuting and Walong, etc. Many other key roads, bridges and airports are under construction and are being expedited.

It is known that infrastructure is much better on the Chinese side, with India trying to catch up. The important lesson for the central and state governments is to focus on improving the infrastructure along the border like all-weather roads, key bridges, railways, airports, etc. In addition, identified and selected villages along the border need to be strengthened and improved. This may be only long term way of countering the Chinese threat.