Chinese villages coming up along sensitive areas of LAC near Arunachal Pradesh

Beijing’s focus is on  settlements on eastern sector of LAC, say sources
FILE - This picture taken on April 4, 2023, shows a valley near the Indo-Chinese border in the Tawang district of  Arunachal Pradesh. (Photo | AFP)
FILE - This picture taken on April 4, 2023, shows a valley near the Indo-Chinese border in the Tawang district of  Arunachal Pradesh. (Photo | AFP)

NEW DELHI: In a bid to press its claims over the un-demarcated borders with India, China is busy setting up ‘border settlement villages’ in many sensitive areas of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

Multiple sources confirmed to this newspaper that these settlements (Xiaokang in Chinese) have focused on the Eastern Sector. While the number of such settlements is estimated at 628 villages in the Tibetan Autonomous Region, the focus has been towards Tawang (30 villages) and Tulung La (25).

From a strategic perspective, Tawang is the entry point to Arunachal Pradesh and the Northeast. Also, it has religious significance as far as the Tibetans are concerned. Tulung La holds significance as in 1975, the Chinese had ambushed 4 Assam Rifles troops. Such settlements have also been spotted in the sensitive area of Chumar (8 villages).

According to sources, construction is also taking place opposite West Bhutan and North Bhutan. This activity gained pace after the 19th Party Congress in October 2017, which was “intended to create a buffer and a means of surveillance and territorial claim”, said sources.

However, officials warn against treating these settlements as villages, as China will use them while pressing its claim over the areas. “We should call these Chinese border settlements in the un-demarcated areas and not Chinese villages,” said an official, adding: “If we call them Chinese villages now, after 10 years they will say even Indian media term these settlements Chinese villages.”

China’s 2022 Land Border Law calls for resettling the population and upgrading critical infrastructure along the border. These villages fill the gap between civil and military infrastructure. “Connectivity has improved… they have oil pipeline, optical fibre, and heliport,” say sources, adding that Chinese people have been forced to live there.

During a field trip to Kibithu, East of Arunachal Pradesh, this reporter witnessed one such settlement called Tatu Camp. It had two separate sections constructed. Half of it is a village area and the other half is a military block having an administrative building, helipad, and a small firing range on the backside of the building.

“India has also begun constructing villages closer to the borders but we are a late starter,” said sources.

Legal status

According to the 2022 Land Border Law of China, these villages have a legal basis. This law stipulates that the PLA and Chinese People’s Armed Police Force are responsible for maintaining security along the border.

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The New Indian Express