Sewang Lama, a businessman, was 11 years old when India and China fought a border war in 1962, with Chinese troops advancing deep into Arunachal Pradesh and inflicting heavy casualties on Indian soldiers.
Today, 58-year-old Lama, a father of three, is confident China cannot do a repeat of 1962 in this rugged eastern frontier.
“The situation was different in 1962 with the Chinese catching our soldiers unawares. Today, I am pretty sure the Indian Army would be able to give China a befitting reply in case they have any ill intentions,” Lama told IANS sounding proud and confident.
Lama has faint memories of the 1962 Chinese aggression. “I remember my father shifting our entire family to a far off village to escape the rampaging Chinese Army… We probably stayed there for close to three weeks.”
The mountainous state of Arunachal Pradesh shares a 1,030-km unfenced border with China. The Sino-Indian border along Arunachal Pradesh is separated by the McMahon Line, an imaginary border now known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
Like Lama, 63-year-old Tamding Sarwang too has bitter memories of the 1962 war.
“Whatever happened is history, now China cannot do a repeat of 1962. The people of Arunachal Pradesh are solidly behind the Indian Army and would shed blood to protect our territory,” said Sarwang, a yak farmer near the Sela Pass perched at an altitude of close to 14,000 feet.
The writing on the wall is loud and clear - Arunachal is part of India.
“I am India, India is me. I love my India,” reads a slogan painted on rocks close to the Chinese border.
But there is a grouse among the locals here - they want New Delhi to firm up its stand against China and develop the frontier region to remove any sense of alienation.
“India should strengthen its troops and equip them with the best of weapons and take a bold step to make India's position clear on Arunachal. We also want our border roads and other infrastructure to be developed,” Ruwal Norbu, a community elder, said.
Arunachal Pradesh Chief Minister Dorjee Khandu echoes similar views.
“Chinese claims of Arunachal Pradesh is baseless. So India should once for all settle the border dispute and clarify all doubts,” the chief minister told IANS.
The border dispute with China was inherited by India from British colonial rulers, who hosted a 1914 conference with the Tibetan and Chinese governments that set the border in what is now Arunachal Pradesh.
China has never recognised the 1914 McMahon Line and claims 90,000 sq km, nearly all of Arunachal Pradesh. India accuses China of occupying 8,000 sq km of its territory in Kashmir.
After 1962, tensions flared again in 1986 with Indian and Chinese forces clashing in Sumdorong Chu valley of Arunachal. Chinese troops reportedly built a helipad in the valley leading to fresh skirmishes.
The latest hiccups along the border follow reports of Chinese incursions, which Beijing has denied. Indian officials say there have been some incursions but this is routine since the border is not demarcated.