China builds 'xiaokang border defence village' in Arunachal: Implications for India's security

A recent report released by the United States Department of Defence has stirred up a controversy in India, putting focus on Indo-Sino tensio...

A recent report released by the United States Department of Defence has stirred up a controversy in India, putting focus on Indo-Sino tensions again.

The annual military report, submitted to the US Congress, stated that China has constructed a massive village in Arunachal Pradesh.

As politicians trade barbs over it, here’s a deep dive into what the report says and what it means for India.

What does the US report say and how India reacted?

The United States Department of Defence published its 'Report on Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China – 2021’ in which it mentioned that China had built a 100-home civilian village "inside disputed territory between the Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC".

Simply put, the village is located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, along the disputed border in Upper Subansiri district in Arunchal Pradesh.

The Chinese-built village, located on the banks of the River Tsari Chu, lies in the Upper Subansiri district. Image Courtesy: Planet Labs

The report added that the village had been constructed sometime in 2020.

Soon after the findings of the report were revealed, sources, according to a Hindustan Times report, said that it has existed for more than six decades.

The report states that the Indian Army has been aware of the village's presence for more than a year.

Another News18 report, citing an official, said, "The village has been built by China in an area that was occupied by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) after overrunning an Assam Rifles post in 1959, in an operation known as Longju incident along the frontier in Arunachal Pradesh."

The official also added, "The village along the disputed border in Upper Subansiri district is in territory controlled by China. They have, for years, maintained an Army post in the region and the various constructions undertaken by the Chinese have not happened in a short time."

China’s ‘xiaokang’ villages along LAC

The village mentioned in the US report isn’t the first that China has constructed.

According to officials in the know, China has built 628 "xiaokang villages on the border" along the 3,488-km Line of Actual Control (LAC), stretching from eastern Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh.

These constructions are built on the basis of President Xi Jinping's strategy of “stabilising Tibet for the governance of frontier regions” and to meet the goal of building a xiaokang — or “moderately well off” — society by 2021.

According to the Chinese, the 'xiaokang border defence villages' will act as a buffer and watch posts along the border and help prevent infiltration.

China attaches great importance to these 'xiaokang border defence villages' is also evident from the fact that Beijing has provided 30.1 billion yuan for them.

Moreover, a report in the Tibet Daily, quoted a villager in a xiaokang border defence village, as saying that he received a border subsidy of 5,000 yuan per year in addition to an annual ecological subsidy of 8,871 yuan annually.

India should be worried

While it appears that India remains unperturbed by the village in Arunachal, some experts say that China's village plan is dangerous and Delhi must take effective measures.

Experts say that what Delhi isn't realising is that by constructing these villages, China is staking claim to the disputed areas and also garnering support from the villagers.

Additionally, these villages can act as “extended troop cantonments” in times of hostilities. The xiaokang border defence village is also an attempt by the Chinese to change the demographics of the people living in the area.

This is particularly more disturbing as the Indian and Chinese militaries have been in a standoff since 5 May last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas.

A series of military and diplomatic talks have been held since then, which finally resulted in a disengagement process in the Gogra area in August and in the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in February.

However, the 13th round of military talks on 10 October to resolve the situation at Hot Springs ended in a stalemate.

As an official said, New Delhi must learn from what happened to Tibet.

With inputs from agencies

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