After Tawang skirmish, focus on Chinese villages along LAC | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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After Tawang skirmish, focus on Chinese villages along LAC

ByRahul Singh, New Delhi
Dec 14, 2022 10:52 AM IST

China has built hundreds of “xiaokang”, or moderately prosperous, villages across LAC in areas stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, with some of the new settlements coming up in proximity to strategically important positions on the Indian side.

The Yangtse skirmish between Indian and Chinese soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang sector in which hordes of People’s Liberation Army soldiers attempted to transgress the Line of Actual Control (LAC) on December 9 has turned the spotlight on villages set up by China in its border areas as one such settlement may have been used by PLA as a staging point for the ingress, people familiar with the development said on Tuesday.

File photo of the Indian Army at Kibithu, close to the LAC in Arunachal’s Anjaw district. (PTI) PREMIUM
File photo of the Indian Army at Kibithu, close to the LAC in Arunachal’s Anjaw district. (PTI)

China has built hundreds of “xiaokang”, or moderately prosperous, villages across LAC in areas stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh, with some of the new settlements coming up in proximity to strategically important positions on the Indian side, and could have potential security ramifications, said one of the officials cited above who asked not to be named.

“These villages are dual-use, and can be used for amassing troops at the border for planned transgressions. There is a strong possibility of PLA using the village across Yangtse as an assembly point in the run-up to the latest LAC incident,” said a second official, who also asked not to be named. Satellite imagery of LAC in recent years has shown that China has constructed several such villages along its disputed frontiers with India, including across Yangtse which lies north-east of Tawang.

While the Yangtse clash has highlighted the possible threats these border villages pose, the concerns are not new.

In October 2021, General Manoj Pande, then the Eastern Army commander, flagged concerns about the “dual use” of such villages across the contested border while stressing that the army was factoring in the development in its operational planning.

To be sure, India is also setting up villages along its borders with China under the Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) announced by the government earlier this year to develop areas with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure.

More than 300 Chinese soldiers were present in the area where the skirmish took place last week.

“A normal patrol can have up to 50 soldiers. The presence of a larger force indicates it was not a routine operation, and was likely cleared by the PLA’s Western Theatre Command and may even have been in the knowledge of the Central Military Commission as you never know how such events unfold. Also, there is a strong possibility of the Chinese village across Yangtse being used by PLA to launch its mission. It may have been a staging area for the build-up,” said military affairs expert Lieutenant General Rakesh Sharma (retd).

China has combined a policy of building villages close to LAC from Xinjiang to Bhutan while simultaneously bolstering military facilities and creating dual-use infrastructure such as airports to keep up the pressure on India, as previous reported by HT. The border villages are likely to be used by PLA as staging points, “else they would have not created them,” said Lieutenant General Shokin Chauhan (retd), also a military affairs expert.

Details of the way in which China systematically pumped in money for almost a decade to build “villages of moderate prosperity” along the 4,000km border of Tibet, most of which aligns with LAC, emerged in a new policy paper on Tibet Autonomous Region released by the Chinese State Council Information Office in May 2021.

By the end of 2020, many border villages in the remote region were better connected to highways, and all had access to mobile communication, according to the policy paper titled Tibet Since 1951: Liberation, Development and Prosperity.

The policy paper said 118,800km of highways were built to provide access to all administrative villages in TAR. Also, 94% of towns and 76% of administrative villages have direct access to asphalt and concrete roads.

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