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Business News/ Politics / News/  Arunachal Pradesh Statehood Day Today: An expansionist China and India's response
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Arunachal Pradesh Statehood Day Today: An expansionist China and India's response

The strategically significant state of Arunachal Pradesh shares borders with Bhutan to the west, Tibet to the north, and Myanmar to the south. It also shares borders with China and is home to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), arguably one of the heavily contested borders.

Indian Army soldiers walk along the India- China border in Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh (AP)Premium
Indian Army soldiers walk along the India- China border in Bumla in Arunachal Pradesh (AP)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 20 greeted the people of Arunachal Pradesh on their statehood day and hailed their contribution to India's development. In a post on X, formerly Twitter, PM Modi said that the people of Arunachal Pradesh are making rich contributions to India’s development.

"The culture of the state is also greatly admired, particularly the vibrant tribal traditions and the rich biodiversity. May Arunachal Pradesh keep prospering for years to come," he said.

 

Arunachal Pradesh attained full statehood on February 20, 1987, with the Fifty-Third Amendment of the Indian Constitution, 1986, becoming the 25th state of the Indian Union. Since then, February 20 has been celebrated as Statehood Day of the Himalayan state. This year is the 38th Statehood Day of Arunachal Pradesh.

Indo- China Border Dispute

The strategically significant northeastern state shares borders with Bhutan to the west, Tibet to the north, and Myanmar to the south. It also shares borders with China and is home to the Line of Actual Control (LAC), arguably one of the heavily contested borders.

India shares an un-demarcated 3488 km border with China. The border is divided into three sectors, the eastern sector along the states of Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim, the western sector in Ladakh and the middle sector along Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. However, Beijing only considers the LAC to be around 2,000 km. The ill-defined border along these sectors has caused many disputes over the years between the two countries.

From 1975 clash to Tawang faceoff

In 1962, India and China were involved in an all-out war predominantly fought in Aksai Chin, a region which is in the western end of the Himalayas with Arunachal Pradesh in the east. Since then, China has been laying claim to around 90,000 sq km of territory in Arunachal Pradesh. 

The border region has seen many stand-offs, the latest in Tawang in September 2022. On December 13, 2022, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh told Parliament that the Indian Army had resisted an attempt by China to change the status quo in the Yangtse area of the Tawang sector along LAC in Arunachal Pradesh and pushed back People’s Liberation Army soldiers engaged in the incursion attempt. Both Indian and Chinese soldiers had suffered some injuries in the clash, the Minister said.

“Our Army with great bravery stopped the PLA incursion and forced them to return to their post," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had said, as quoted by the Indian Express.

 

The last time, Indian soldiers lost their lives along Arunachal Pradesh was in 1975. Chinese forces had crossed over into the Indian territory at Tulung La in Arunachal Pradesh and ambushed a patrol of Assam Rifles jawans, killing four of them, according to a report.

Maps and Villages

Beijing has repeatedly produced maps which show Arunachal Pradesh as part of China and refer to the state as “Zangnan" in the Chinese language. It also tried to assign Chinese names to places in Arunachal Pradesh in 2017, 2021 and 2023, seen as a bid to unilaterally change the status quo. 

India has been dismissing China's move to rename places, asserting that the state has always been and will always be an integral part of India. 

Among other things, China has been constructing 628 such “well-off villages" along India’s borders with the Tibet Autonomous Region, including along Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh since 2019.

According to a report in Indian Express, Chinese nationals have reportedly started occupying a few of these model “Xiaokang" border defence villages built on its side of the LAC across from Lohit Valley and the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh.

Vibrant Village Programme

India in the last four years has uplifted the border infrastructure to improve accessibility in Arunachal Pradesh. This includes building new village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, and decentralised renewable energy production through the country's Vibrant Villages programme. 

Under this Scheme, India plans to develop 663 border villages into modern villages with all amenities in the first phase. Of these, at least 17 villages along the borders with China in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, have been selected for development as a pilot project under the programme.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is soon expected to inaugurate the Sela tunnel, the world’s longest twin-lane tunnel above 13,000 feet and constructed at a cost of 700 crore on the Balipara-Charduar-Tawang road. The Prime Minister had laid its foundation stone in February 2019.

"The tunnel signals a monumental enhancement in the army’s logistical prowess in the strategic Tawang sector where Indian soldiers hold posts close to the contested border with China," Lieutenant General Harpal Singh (retd), who oversaw critical phases of the project as the head of the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) was quoted in a report in Hindustan Times

McMohan Line

In March 2023, a US Senate resolution recognised the McMahon Line as the international boundary between China and Arunachal Pradesh, India. The bipartisan resolution, which reaffirmed the northeastern state as an integral part of India, came close on the heels of the biggest clash between New Delhi and Beijing in six years in the Eastern Sector.

"Since the Sino-Indian war of 1962, the United States has recognised the McMahon Line as the international boundary between the People’s Republic of China and the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh. United States recognises the state of Arunachal Pradesh not as a disputed territory but as an integral part of the Republic of India, and this recognition is not qualified in any way," the resolution read.

Named after Sir Henry McMahon, foreign secretary of British India, in 1914, the 890 km border between erstwhile British India and Tibet was decided at the Simla Convention between China, Tibet and Great Britain.

China claims Arunachal Pradesh as its own territory, which it calls “South Tibet", and has invoked these claims as part of its increasingly aggressive and expansionist policies, the Senate resolution said.

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Published: 20 Feb 2024, 01:37 PM IST
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