India to set up villages, boost infra near LAC in Arunachal Pradesh

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Matching China’s effort of creating new villages on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC), India has decided to set up “new villages” or “habitations” in Arunachal Pradesh “closer to the LAC”.

The existing Indian villages in Arunachal Pradesh had benefited from infrastructure under the ongoing Vibrant Villages Programme, but these were some 50 to 60 km inside the LAC. “This distance is too far for these villages to be integrated into any dual-use security-civilian architecture and hence, a target has been set to have villages or habitations closer to the LAC,” a senior functionary said.

These new habitations will benefit from roads that have reached right up to forward military locations along the LAC. These habitations will have facilities for adventure tourists. A similar tourism-based programme has shown “good results” in Keran sector of Jammu and Kashmir where tourists have been visiting the banks of the Kishanganga river. On the other bank of the river is the Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK).

In other border areas like Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand that share a boundary with China, the Indian villages are closer to the LAC. Since Arunachal Pradesh is sparsely populated, the plan to create habitations has been given the nod.

India launched the Vibrant Villages Programme on April 13, 2023, from Kibithoo in far-east Arunachal Pradesh. The Rs 4,800-crore project aims to cover 662 villages. As many as 75 villages in Himachal Pradesh and 51 in Uttarakhand are on the list for the first phase. Ladakh has 35 villages, Sikkim 46 while Arunachal is getting the largest push — 455 villages.

Overall, the government has identified 2,963 villages under the programme to be upgraded over 10 years.

The identified focused areas for upgrade under the programme include road connectivity, housing and infrastructure, renewable energy through solar and wind, high speed telecom connectivity and promotion of tourism.

On its side, China has set up 628 “prosperous villages”, or what it calls “Xiaokang”, along the LAC, including opposite Arunachal Pradesh. These villages bolster territorial claims and enhance military readiness along the LAC, which is not demarcated on the ground.

China could also be looking to create a legal defence under the Border Defence Cooperation Agreement-2005 with India. It mentions border settlements and the local population living on the border.

Article VII of the agreement says “… the two sides shall safeguard due interests of their settled populations in the border areas”. So, as and when, a situation arises to demarcate the LAC, these villages do not get disturbed in any ground delineation exercise.

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