Mechuka (Shi Yomi district): China hasn’t built any villages in Arunachal Pradesh and any development work undertaken by the neighbouring country has been on the Chinese side of the border, Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Pema Khandu said, while referring to recent reports of Chinese construction near the Arunachal border.
In an interview with ThePrint, Khandu said, “Day before yesterday I was in that area, Monigong (close to the area where the Chinese development activities are said to have been taken up). I had interacted with the defence personnel out there. We are very clear that whatever development and activities has been done (by China), has been done on their side only.”
A satellite image expert, whose Twitter handle identifies him as @Detresfa_, had said last month that the new village “appears to be within the survey of India and McMahon line boundary”.
This village appears to be within the survey of #India & McMahon line boundary, geography however, restricts access allowing #Beijing to move unchallenged, such land grabs alter maps & promote sinicization of local features hindering future challenges to Indian territorial claims https://t.co/5AJCMiSGcL pic.twitter.com/3hmFCGlOYT
— Damien Symon (@detresfa_) November 18, 2021
The Pentagon too, in a report to the US Congress in November, mentioned the establishment of a new Chinese village in a disputed area near the Tsari river (near the McMahon line) last year. A report last month had also claimed “China has constructed a second enclave or cluster of at least 60 buildings in Arunachal Pradesh”.
Reacting to the Pentagon report, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said that while China had undertaken such construction in the past, “India has neither accepted China’s illegal occupation of its territory nor has it accepted unjustified Chinese claims.” Chief of Defence Staff Bipin Rawat had, however, dismissed the reports and claimed that any construction by China had been on its side of the LAC.
Referring to the Pentagon report, the Arunachal CM added: “The Pentagon has issued some kind of press report that the Chinese has built villages in Arunachal, on ground it is totally false. These areas are under the control of the Indian government. They (the Chinese) haven’t made any villages.”
He added, “No one from the Chinese army has entered into Arunachal, neither has any kind of developmental works been taken up by the Chinese within the territory of Arunachal Pradesh.”
Khandu was speaking during a visit to Mechuka in Shi Yomi district for the government’s media campaign launched in the lead-up to a month-long celebration of 50 years of the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) being renamed as Arunachal Pradesh in January 1972.
The CM also spoke about the security status along the LAC, the infrastructural boost by the Centre in the area, the challenges being faced by the state government, and the BJP’s and Congress’ prospects in the northeast.
Situation along LAC, developing border villages
Arunachal Pradesh shares borders with Bhutan in the west, Myanmar in the east and a 1,129 km disputed border with the Tibet Autonomous Region in China. The eastern sector of the LAC divides the state from China and follows the McMahon Line.
When asked about Indian surveillance along the LAC and whether there is any growing concern regarding China’s activities near the border, Khandu said, “In terms of the (defence) deployment, we too are totally geared up in terms of manpower. There is a heavy presence of the Indian army here. Whatever post they have been given, they are able to do the patrolling well.”
State legislators have also demanded for better facilities for people living in villages along the border to stall migration for better education opportunities, healthcare and jobs.
When asked about the infrastructure development in border areas of Arunachal Pradesh as compared to the situation on the other side of the border, Khandu said, “As Chief Minister, I am trying to visit those areas, where the basic infrastructure is lacking. From the state government’s side, we always encourage our own people to stay in their own village,” Khandu said and added, “Connectivity is our major thrust in all sectors, especially in terms of roads. The pace of work is coming up at a good speed.”
The chief minister added that they have now noticed a slow trend of people moving back to their villages.
Problem of funding
One of the problems being faced by the state government in its developmental efforts is that of a funds crunch.
Arunachal Pradesh Deputy Chief Minister Chowna Mein had also highlighted this to the Centre last month and pointed out that the state was being deprived of funding from multilateral development banks owing to China’s oft-repeated claim that Arunachal is a part of Southern Tibet.
“Unfortunately, due to this impractical claim, Arunachal has been deprived from receiving foreign aid. Unlike many other states, Arunachal has never had foreign aid,” Khandu said and added that the Union government was trying to bridge this gap through centrally sponsored schemes like Rural Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF) and Non-Lapsable Central Pool of Resources (NLCPR).
He said that the RIDF component for Arunachal, for instance, has been increased to compensate for the lack of foreign funds
BJP’s prospects in Arunachal Pradesh, northeast
Khandu also spoke about the BJP’s prospects in the northeast.
A former Congress leader, Khandu had defected to the People’s Party of Arunachal in 2016 (along with 42 other MLAs), before joining the BJP the same year.
Asked about the BJP’s understanding of the political nuances of the northeast, given its passing of the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act — which had drawn severe criticism in the region — Khandu said, “BJP is the only national party in the country that actually tries to understand… Before finalising the Citizenship Act, the Honourable Home Minister Amit Shah had convened a meeting with all state Chief Ministers.”
During the meeting, Khandu shared, he had requested that the state be exempted from the purview of the Act, since it is a tribal state and covered under the Inner Line Permit (ILP). The CAA was made non-applicable in areas under the ILP, including Arunachal Pradesh.
“This kind of consultation has been done before also,” he said.
The Arunachal Pradesh CM also spoke about the Congress’ decline in the northeast.
“Over time, the Congress leadership has failed to address the problems of the people across the country. The northeastern states have their own problems and challenges. Until and unless central leadership doesn’t hand-hold us well, the northeast states won’t be able to progress,” said Khandu.
Khandu added that the BJP leadership’s focus on building facilities in the region in the past seven years has changed the outlook about the northeast”.
(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)