Amit Shah to visit Arunachal Pradesh amid China border row
Union home minister Amit Shah’s visit to the border state comes days after China renamed 11 places in Arunchal Pradesh, inviting strong reaction from India
Union home minister Amit Shah will visit Kibithoo, a strategically key village near the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in Arunachal Pradesh, on Monday, and launch the centrally sponsored ‘Vibrant Villages Programme’ (VVP) aimed at comprehensive development of villages at India-China border. The Union ministry of home affairs (MHA) said on Saturday that Shah will visit the border state on April 10-11.
It comes days after China renamed 11 places including mountain peaks, rivers and residential areas in Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims as South Tibet, further straining the bilateral ties between two countries. The Indian government has strongly rejected China’s move to rename the places in Arunachal Pradesh saying the state has been the integral and inalienable part of India.
“This is not the first time China has made such an attempt. We reject this outright. Arunachal Pradesh is, has been, and will always be an integral and inalienable part of India. Attempts to assign invented names will not alter this reality,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said on April 4, a day after China’s civil affairs ministry came up with the new names.
This was the third time China has unilaterally renamed places in Arunachal Pradesh, after changing the names of six locations in April 2017 and 15 more locations in December 2021.
On the first day of his visit, he will launch the ‘Vibrant Villages Programme’ in Kibithoo, a border village in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh on April 10, MHA said in a statement.
The VVP aims to develop the villages in 46 border blocks of 19 districts in four states and one Union territory viz Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Ladakh (UT) abutting the northern border.
A fund of ₹4,800 crore has been allocated for the programme for the Financial Year 2022-23 to 2025-26 for the comprehensive development of these border villages.
In the first phase, 662 villages have been identified for priority on coverage, which includes 455 villages in Arunachal Pradesh.
The programme was announced against the backdrop of the Chinese setting up model villages along borders with India and Bhutan.
In her budget speech in Parliament on February 1, Union finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman said border villages with sparse populations, limited connectivity, and infrastructure often get left out of the development gains. “Such villages on the northern border will be covered under the new Vibrant Villages Programme.”
People familiar with Shah’s trip to Arunachal Pradesh said the home minister will interact with locals as well as jawans deployed at the Kibithoo border outpost (BOP), which looks out over Chinese deployment in the Rima-Tatu area across the LAC.
“The VVP will help in improving the quality of life of people living in identified border villages and encourage people to stay in their native locations thereby reversing the outmigration from these villages and adding to security of the border. District administration with the help of appropriate mechanisms at block and panchayat level will prepare action plans for identified village to ensure 100% saturation of central and state schemes,” the MHA statement said.
The focus areas of interventions identified for development of villages include road connectivity, drinking water, electricity including solar and wind energy, mobile and internet connectivity, tourist centres, multi-purpose centres and healthcare infrastructure and wellness centres, the MHA added.
A senior official familiar with the contours of VVP, who asked not to be named, said, “Apart from developing infrastructure in a focused manner in border villages by building roads, mobile towers, banks, etc, it will motivate people to continue to stay there because otherwise, a large number of people will move out of these villages”.
“It will also help to gather intelligence from the people of border villages,” he added.