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India launches ‘Vibrant Villages’ project to strengthen Tibet-border defence

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(TibetanReview.net, Apr11’23) – Brushing aside China’s criticism of his visit to the border state of Arunachal Pradesh, India’s Home Minister Mr Amit Shah has said Apr 10 that “nobody can encroach on even an inch” of India’s borderlands or cast an “evil eye” on its territorial integrity. He was speaking at the launch of India’s “Vibrant Villages” programme in the state’s border town of Kibithoo.

Kibithoo is strategically located at about 15km south of Line of Actual Control (LAC) and 40km west of the India-Tibet-Myanmar tri-junction and has often been described as India’s last village.

“Our policy is clear. We want peace from everybody. But no one can encroach on even an inch of our territory… The protection of borders is the protection of the country, which is why Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi has made border infrastructure a matter of priority,” the indianexpress.com Apr 11 quoted Shah as saying.

Earlier, responding to a question, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin had said in Beijing on Apr 10: “Zangnan (Southern Tibet, China’s name for Arunachal Pradesh) is part of China’s territory… The activity of the senior Indian official in Zangnan violates China’s territorial sovereignty and is not conducive to peace and tranquility in the border areas. We are firmly against this.”

Shah’s visit and Wang’s remark came after India slammed Beijing’s move to give its own names to some places in the border state. It was third such move by China on Arunachal since 2017 in an attempt to reinforce its claim over the state.

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“The era is gone when anyone could encroach on our lands,” Shah has said, adding that nobody could cast an “evil eye” on India because of the security forces protecting the country’s frontiers.

Emphasizing the state’s “integration” with India, Shah has said: “Whenever I come to Arunachal, my heart gets filled with patriotism, because no one here greets by saying ‘namaste’, they greet each other by saying ‘Jai Hind’. This passion is what has bound Arunachal together with India. In the 1962 war, whoever had come here to encroach, the reason they had to go back was your patriotism. And the country salutes the patriotism of the people of Arunachal.”

China attacked Arunachal in late 1962 but withdrew after about a month of occupying areas that included Tawang, the birthplace of Tibet’s 6th Dalai Lama, which Beijing especially covets.

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The “Vibrant Villages” project is, in part, India’s response to China’s development of “Xiaokang” (Well-off) border defense villages along the LAC. In 2017 during the 19th Party congress, Chinese President Xi Jinping wrote a letter to a Tibetan herdsman family in Lhunze County, near Arunachal Pradesh, urging them to settle down, protect “Chinese territory,” and concentrate on enhancing their hometown.

Launching the first vibrant border village at Kibithoo, Shah has said the government had brought about a “conceptual” policy change to develop these areas and help the locals by providing basic amenities.

Shah has said the “Vibrant Villages” scheme envisages that tap water, electricity, cooking gas, financial inclusion, digital and physical connectivity are available in the remote border areas. Economic and employment opportunities will be provided in the villages to discourage migration.

Under the scheme, a total of 2,967 villages have been identified for development in 46 blocks of 19 districts along the northern border in Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh and Ladakh.

Shah has said a total of about 1.42 lakh people in 662 villages will be covered in the first phase.

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