(TibetanReview.net, Dec07’20) – China has built at least three villages on a disputed boundary area with India and experts see the move as efforts to “fortify claims” to the region, reported express.co.uk Dec 7. The report said the site was located roughly five kilometres from the Bum-la Pass in western Arunachal Pradesh, also close to Bhutan. The area is described as a tri-section between India, China and Bhutan.
The report quoted Dr Brahma Chellaney, a strategic affairs expert, as saying on Twitter: “Building border villages to fortify claims and escalate cross-frontier intrusions is integral to China’s territorial aggrandizement.
“Amid the military standoff with India, three villages come up near Bum-la Pass at the Arunachal-Bhutan-Tibet trijunction.”
The 2,100-mile-long stretch of Himalayan land between India and Chinese ruled Tibet is referred to as the Line of Actual Control (LAC), but no official border has been negotiated.
China disputes the legal status of the boundary in this region and Chinese maps continue to show 65,000 square kilometres of territory south of the line as being a part of what it calls South Tibet Region.
The new constructions here could be a significant step by China towards reinforcing its territorial claims along the Arunachal Pradesh frontier, said the ndtv.com Dec 6 while reporting on the new Chinese constructions for the first time.
”China has been using a strategy of settling Han Chinese and Tibetan members of the Communist Party along the India border to strengthen its territorial claims and escalate border intrusions,” the report quoted Chellaney as saying. ”Like it used fishermen in the South China Sea, China uses civilian resources – herders and grazers – as the tip of the spear to intrude into Indian-patrolled Himalayan areas.”
The report said the new satellite images presented in the report had come a week after high-resolution satellite images appeared of Chinese village construction in Bhutanese sovereign territory, just seven kilometres from the Doklam face-off site between Indian and Chinese forces in 2017.
The ndtv.com report noted that the villages were being constructed at the same time that Indian and Chinese soldiers faced off in Eastern Ladakh, in the worst crisis the two nations have faced since the 1962 war. “That standoff continues with tens of thousands of soldiers having hunkered down for a long deployment through the intense winter after eight rounds of military talks failed to achieve a breakthrough,” it said.
China disputes the legal status of the boundary in this region with its maps continuing to show 65,000 square kilometres of territory south of the line as being a part of what it calls South Tibet Region. India, however, insists that the historic McMahon line proposed by the British administrator Sir Henry McMohan at the 1914 tripartite Simla Convention which also involved the independent Tibetan government at that time defines the boundary here.
India’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Bipin Rawat, then Army Chief, had, in Sep 2017, warned of China’s efforts at `salami slicing’ into Indian territory.
“As far as [the] northern adversary is concerned, the flexing of muscle has started. The salami slicing, taking over territory in a very gradual manner, testing our limits of threshold is something we have to be wary about,” the General had warned.
The report noted that this was precisely what had been happening across the Indo-Tibetan frontier – in Doklam (near Sikkim) in 2017, across eastern Ladakh this year and potentially near the tri-junction in western Arunachal Pradesh, as the satellite images shown in it indicated.
The report noted that the construction across the Bum La pass was, in fact, reported by the Chinese government mouth piece Global Times which identified in a detailed report in August what looked at infrastructure construction in the Shannan (Tibetan: Lhokha) Prefecture which borders Arunachal Pradesh.
”For residents who set up a home close to the border line, herding is patrolling and living is guarding the frontier,” the report was quoted as having said.
And the new villages werestated to have been a stark contrast from the dwellings of villagers in the past. “The new houses have water, electricity and internet access.”
Significantly, Cona (Tsona), a crucial border county in Shannan which shares a 213 kilometre boundary with India, plans ”to relocate 3,222 people of 960 families to the weakly controlled areas on the borders on a voluntary basis,” the Global Times report was cited as saying.