The disputed Arunachal Pradesh, parts of which is referred to as ‘South Tibet’ by China, is witnessing investment worth billions from the Narendra Modi led-NDA government. After introducing the first train that will connect Arunachal Pradesh to Delhi, the government is now finalizing a 2,000 Km highway project
worth $6 billion that will run along west to east of Himalayas.
Also, small road projects, plan for solar generating stations and such are underway in order to reduce migration of villagers to big cities in search of employment.
But China, which has developed the nearby areas along the McMahon line drawn in 1914, has repeatedly asked India to ‘refrain from actions that complicate the boundary issue’, according to China’s Vice Foreign Minister Liu Zhenmin.
On the other hand, India has taken an assertive stand towards China’s territorial expansion.
Analysts are of the view that through his active diplomatic efforts during China visit, PM Modi has managed to strike a balance. Minister of State for Home Kiren Rijiju, who hails from the ‘Land of Rising Sun’, explains:
“If China is developing on their side of the territory, we should develop on our side. India has failed the people living along that border. We’re now taking very concrete steps in that direction.”
Arunachal Pradesh — which means “Land of the Dawn-Lit Mountains” — shares borders with China, Myanmar and Bhutan, and has a population of 1.4 million, mostly comprising of indigenous tribes.
With the lack of basic amenities and hardly any source of employment, a third of its population lives below the poverty line.
Tourists, both Indians and foreigners, have to take a special permit to visit the state.
The forgotten state, which has now come under government scanner, has hydropower, coal and mineral resources lying unused. There is no airport in the state, many territories don’t have power, half of the population does not have cellphone service and only 29 percent of the region has paved roads compared with a national average of 62 percent. The government is planning to boost telecommunication and transport networks, and has also allocated more resources to build schools, clinics and small bridges in the state, Rijiju said.
However, it doesn’t seem to go well with the other side (China).
Earlier this year, a Chinese newspaper published an article by Hu Zhiyong, and warned Modi to stay away from border areas and accused him of playing little tricks.
“Due to the Indian elites’ blind arrogance and confidence in their democracy, and the inferiority of its ordinary people, very few Indians are able to treat Sino-Indian relations accurately, objectively and rationally. Worse, some Indian media have been irresponsibly exaggerating the conflicts between the two sides, adding fuel to the hostility among the public.”
On the other hand, Rijiju emphasized that India’s moves shouldn’t be interpreted as a challenge to China. “I don’t want to link it to China. We’re not doing anything to disturb relations. It’s not in terms of challenging or competing with China, but in terms of securing our own territory,” he said.
India-China border in Bumla, Arunachal Pradesh.
Though these development plans may revive the economy there, the big question is are the people in the state supporting it? Yowa Pana, 26, a member of a tribal community, says, “It’s good, but it’s also bad.” He adds, “It will be easier to reach Delhi and for commercial purposes. But it’s bad because so many foreigners are going to be coming in. And by ‘foreigners,’ I mean people coming from outside Arunachal Pradesh. We’re concerned they will bring in viruses and criminal activity.” China, which spends $136 billion on overall defense as compared to India’s $38 billion, is determined to resolve the border issue which time and again has sprung up. On the same lines, Rijiju believes the highway project should strengthen economic ties between India and China instead of dividing the nations.