Army looking at plan to attract more tourists to Arunachal’s eastern edge
The army is examining a plan that could help draw more tourists to India’s farthest frontiers in the east and integrate these remote and largely unexplored pockets into the country, two army officers familiar with the proposal said.
From the scenic hamlet where the sun rays hit India first, the battle ground where Indian soldiers displayed extraordinary heroism against the Chinese during the Battle of Walong in the 1962 India-China war to splendid adventures in pristine wilderness, the eastern-most edge of Arunachal Pradesh has plenty to offer but its potential has hardly been exploited, said the first officer.
The Dong village, which receives the first sun rays in India and is located 20 km south of Kibithu along Lohit River, could be the centerpiece of the proposed army plan to unlock the tourism potential of this region that borders China and Myanmar, he said.
Other aspects of the proposal relate to introducing rafting expeditions on the Lohit, setting up meditation and yoga camps near picturesque villages inhabited by the Mishmi and Meyor tribes and trips to the Namti plain that is also known as the ‘Tiger’s Mouth’ as it had a high concentration of Chinese fatalities in the Battle of Walong.
Walong, which is seven km south of Dong, has a rich military history. The battle is considered to be one of the few glorious chapters for India in the 1962 war --- heavily outnumbered and outgunned Indian soldiers halted the Chinese war machine at Walong.
A war memorial built for the 400-odd Indian soldiers killed in the battle is located at Walong. It was in this sector that an Indian Army infantry brigade was pitched against the enemy’s five infantry and two artillery brigades. An inscription at the memorial reads, “Own troops caused crippling losses on the invading Chinese. Mule trains carrying Chinese casualties stretched between Namti and Kraoti. Chinese suffered approximately 4,000 casualties and were unable to advance any further towards Tezu.”
The proposal to make eastern Arunachal a tourist’s delight also talks about only e-rickshaws being permitted north of Walong. It also says national helicopter carrier Pawan Hans could consider launching services from Tezu (250 km south of Kibithu) to the Walong advanced landing ground (ALG), the second officer said.
The ALG was operational during the 1962 Chinese aggression but was in disuse for several decades until it was reactivated four years ago.
It’s not easy to reach eastern Arunachal. After reaching Dibrugarh by air or Tinsukhia by rail, it takes two days to get to Walong. There’s no mobile connectivity either, though phones sometimes automatically connect to Chinese mobile networks due to signal spillover into the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
“Things will not change overnight. But we need to take steps towards the goal. It will transform the lives of the locals too,” the second officer said.
The army is also examining a proposal to allow civilians to visit the world’s highest battlefield, Siachen glacier, to gain first-hand experience of the tough conditions in which Indian soldiers operate, as reported by Hindustan Times on September 25.
The proposal, mooted by army chief General Bipin Rawat to give civilians access to the glacier, is at an initial stage but is being considered seriously. Siachen is strategically important because as long as it is in India’s control, the Pakistani army can’t link up with the Chinese and pose a threat to Ladakh. It acts as a wedge between the Shaksgam valley under Chinese control and Baltistan, which is occupied by Pakistan.