India launches Arunachal Villages programme, ignoring angry China

NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s powerful home minister on Monday visited a Himalayan border state that China claims as part of its territory to launch a 48 billion rupee ($585 million) development plan he said would add to the security of the undefined region. border.

Home Minister Amit Shah said the programme, which will cover nearly 3,000 villages in four states and one district administered by the federal government at the Chinese border, aims to help reverse migration from border areas.

Shah added during Monday’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh that the Indian forces, who have long been deployed in the region, are making sure that no one sees its borders or trespasses into its territory.

His comments came hours after Beijing said it strongly opposed his planned visit to the eastern country and considered his activities in the region a violation of China’s territorial sovereignty.

Arunachal Pradesh has become the new hotspot between New Delhi and Beijing, whose relationship has been strained since deadly clashes between their militaries elsewhere in the western Himalayas in 2020 in which 24 soldiers were killed.

In December last year, forces from both sides clashed in the state’s Tawang sector, and last week India refused to rename China 11 places, including five mountains, in Arunachal Pradesh.

A map published last week showed 11 places that China had renamed as being within “Zhangnan,” or southern Tibet in Chinese, with Arunachal Pradesh in southern Tibet included.

Shah, who is close to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and is considered the second most powerful leader in the government, said Indians in remote areas were able to sleep peacefully because of the “bravery and sacrifice” of the troops on the border.

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“They have assured that no one can police our borders,” Shah told a public meeting in Kibethu, a border village in Arunachal Pradesh’s Angaw district, one of India’s last inhabited settlements just miles from the Chinese border.

Speaking in Hindi and without naming China, Shah said, “Today we proudly say the days when anyone could trespass on our lands are over.”

India and China fought a short but bloody war in 1962, and Kibito was among the first to be overrun by Chinese forces.

Shah said there was concern 10 years ago that the village was empty, but the “Vibrant Villages Programme” he launched on Monday will provide facilities such as banking, power, cooking gas, jobs, physical and digital connectivity for what he called “India’s first village”.

Since coming to power in 2014, Modi’s government has poured millions of dollars into building up military and civilian infrastructure along its 3,800-kilometer (2,360-mile) border with China, which analysts say has angered Beijing.

“Zhangnan is China’s territory,” Wang Wenbin, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said earlier on Monday when asked about Shah’s visit.

“The Indian official’s visit to Xangnan infringes China’s territorial sovereignty and is not conducive to peace and tranquility of the border situation.”

($1 = 81.9850 Indian Rupees)

Reporting by YP Rajesh in New Delhi; Additional reporting by Laurie Chen in Beijing. Editing by Jean Harvey

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