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India and China have an acrimonious relationship over the last 60 years. The major conflict was the Sino-India war of 1962 where Chinese forces entered almost 100 kms inside India in Arunachal Pradesh.
Indo-China conflict flared up in the last few months at Pangong Tso lake in Ladakh, North Sikkim and violent clashes at Galwan Valley during the night of 15/16 June 2020 which resulted in the death of 20 Indian soldiers and 40 plus Chinese troops.
A tense situation exists all along the Indo-China border.
Recently, there were reports that China has constructed a village with 100 plus houses inside Indian territory in Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.
According to local sources, the satellite images indicate the village in Bisa area near the Lensi river in Limeking circle of Upper Subansiri district. The Lensi river is 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 sensationalisation associated with this news item.
Readers may also recall the recent incident of four local youth of Arunachal Pradesh 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!
Deeper analysis reveals that the Line of Actual Control (LAC) has remained the same since after the 1962 Sino-India war. The reported village has existed at the same place since then under Chinese control.
However, large scale construction activity has been 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 has been picked up and reported by a national news channel as construction within Indian territory.
Frequent border clashes and skirmishes have indeed occurred like the NathuLa clash in Sikkim in 1967 which led to more than 150 Indians and 340 Chinese killed. This was followed by the tense standoff in 1987 at Sumdorong Chu in Arunachal Pradesh and the 73-day confrontation over Doklam in Sikkim in 2017. There have been Chinese incursions in Asaphila, Tuting and Chaklagam areas of Arunachal Pradesh in 2017-2018.
Besides, there have been cases of arm-twisting over river bodies by manipulating the flow of the Yarlung Tsangpo which affects the Siang river in Arunachal Pradesh and Brahmaputra river in Assam.
It is known for many years 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 to counter this development in China, infrastructure along the Indian side has also been beefed up with many major infrastructure projects being completed.
The major projects accomplished include the road-cum-rail bridge over the Brahmaputra at Bogibeel near Dibrugarh, the 9.15 kms long Bhupen Hazarika bridge over Lohit river, the 6.5 km long Bomjir bridge over Dibang river, the bridge over Sisiri river near Dambuk, commissioning of six Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) at Pasighat, Ziro, Mechukha, Aalo, Tuting and Walong etc in Arunachal Pradesh. 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 government is to focus on improving the infrastructure along the border like all-weather roads, key bridges, railways, airports etc.
Besides, identified and selected villages along the border may be strengthened and improved. This may be only a long term plan of countering the Chinese threat.
To emphasise on this critical importance of developing military and strategic infrastructure along the Indo-China border, a quote by Chinese strategist Sun Tzu would be relevant.
“Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
About the writer:
Group Captain Mohonto Panging, Vayu Sena Medal, is a retired fighter pilot; retired after 25 years distinguished service to the nation. He had taken part in Kargil Operations, Operation Parakram and Activation after Mumbai attacks in Nov 2008. He is also the first person from North East India to command a Sukhoi-30MKI Fighter Squadron. Rtd. Capt. Panging is a resident of Arunachal Pradesh.
(DISCLAIMER: This is a personal opinion. The opinion expressed in the article above belongs to the writer alone and TNT- The Northeast Today may not endorse the same views.)