India launches programme to boost infrastructure along LAC with China


New Delhi: India has started a programme to invest in infrastructure and villages along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China in an effort to increase its military and administrative presence there amid rising tensions between the two most populous nations in the world.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah travelled to the sparsely populated north-eastern state of Arunachal Pradesh on Monday to launch the Vibrant Villages Programme, which aims to improve living conditions and job prospects in five states and territories of India that lie along the LAC with China.

The Indian Army and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) of China had engaged in a bloody hand-to-hand fight in Arunachal Pradesh last December, in which several soldiers from both sides had sustained injuries. After Modi visited the region in 2015, China summoned India’s ambassador to object, claiming that the entire disputed territory is part of Tibet, which is currently occupied by the Chinese.

For the third time, China has infuriated India by assigning “standardised” names in Mandarin and Tibetan to 11 locations in Arunachal Pradesh. In response, the Indian government declared the region to be “an inalienable part of India” last week and asserted that China will not be able to change the realities on the ground by “providing its own innovative titles”.

The Vibrant Villages Programme, which Amit Shah unveiled on Monday, will invest in projects at Kibithoo, a community just south of the Line of Actual Control, as both countries refer to the roughly 3,500km border, including electricity generation, drinking water connectivity, and other projects.

The programme is a continuation of China’s broad, according to observers, xiaokang programme, which aims to create a “moderately wealthy society,” in part through reducing poverty.

In exchange for locals’ political fealty and support in border surveillance, Beijing builds settlements in rural areas close to India and other neighbouring nations in Tibet, according to analysts.

The development of border settlements is just one aspect of Beijing’s huge infrastructure drive in Tibet, where the country has also built highways, bridges, airports, and military bases, particularly close to India.

The People’s Liberation Army has allegedly established a base close to Pangong Tso, a high-altitude lake where Chinese and Indian forces engaged in combat in 2020, according to a CSIS study published in November based on satellite images.

In 1962, India and China fought a conflict on their shared border. They came to an agreement on five “peaceful cohabitation” principles in 2005, which addressed some aspects of the border conflict.

However the issue has not been settled, and in 2020, further to the west, in the Galwan Valley of eastern Ladakh, violent warfare broke out, resulting in at least 24 deaths of Indian and Chinese troops. Since then, Chinese troops have prevented their Indian counterparts from patrolling in two locations along the border.

According to China, Amit Shah’s travel to Arunachal Pradesh has breached Chinese territorial integrity.

India has had trouble convincing people to settle in the mountainous Himalayan region along the LAC with China-occupied Tibet due to the region’s harsh environment and lack of employment prospects in one of the world’s highest