China ‘bribing’ locals to move into disputed Indian border region

Building of villages replicates tactics used in South China Sea, experts warn

A Chinese and an Indian border guard at the Nathu La crossing
A Chinese and an Indian border guard at the Nathu La crossing
(Image credit: Diptendu Dutta/AFP via Getty Images)

China is funding the construction of villages on Indian land amid rising tensions between the two nuclear superpowers over disputed border territory.

Tapir Gao, a member of parliament from India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), told The Telegraph that “​​China has occupied our territory”. Beijing is behind the construction of “more than 100 houses”, he said, that have appeared on the banks of the River Tsari Chu in the Upper Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh.

The region is “remote with harsh weather conditions”, the paper said, “but the villages are said to include high-quality infrastructure such as roads, water, electricity and a communication network to entice new residents”.

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Indian officials believe China is “constructing more than 600 such villages” along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the paper added, a border between the two countries agreed after what Newsweek described as a “brief but bloody border war” in 1962.

Last year in June, at least 20 Indian and five Chinese soldiers were killed in hand-to-hand combat in the mountains in the first fatal clashes in at least 45 years.

Five months later a Beijing-based academic claimed Chinese troops had got around a no-live-shots agreement by using a microwave weapon that left Indian soldiers “vomiting” and unable to stand within 15 minutes.

According to the Vivekananda International Foundation, a think-tank headquartered in New Delhi, one villager in the newly constructed village was quoted in the Tibet Daily as saying that he received 30,000 Yuan (£3,500) a year to live in the border region.

The Telegraph described “similar views” being “echoed by several locals” who described “bribing” being deployed as an incentive to move.

Konchok Stanzin, a councillor in India’s Ladakh border region, said: “China lures locals by providing them with better-living facilities so that they come to live in the disputed border areas and create permanent settlements.”

The publication of an annual US Defence Department report has also “turned the spotlight on India’s concerns about a push by China to create civilian settlements” in the disputed region, Voice of America (VoA) said.

According to the document, titled Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Beijing “continued taking incremental and tactical actions to press its claims at the LAC”.

“Sometime in 2020, the PRC built a large 100-home civilian village inside disputed territory between the PRC's Tibet Autonomous Region and India's Arunachal Pradesh state in the eastern sector of the LAC,” it added.

“These and other infrastructure development efforts along the India-China border have been a source of consternation in the Indian government and media.”

Brahma Chellaney, a New Delhi-based geostrategist, told The Telegraph that China’s actions were comparable with its efforts to expand into the South China Sea, explaining that “the village-building spree is designed with a purpose”.

“By creating civilian settlements in desolate, previously uninhabited border areas that are disputed or were forcibly occupied by it, China is seeking to assert its rights under international law,” he added. “In other words, it has undertaken unlawful action with the intent of legitimising its territorial claims.”

In response to the building, “both countries have beefed up military deployments all along the Himalayas”, VoA reported. “India says it is also focusing on improving infrastructure to meet the country's security requirements.”

In October, India “test-fired a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile with a range of 5,000km (3,125 miles) from an island off its east coast”, Al Jazeera said.

Coming “amid rising border tensions”, the broadcaster reported that the launch was accompanied by a government statement that said the test was consistent with “India’s policy to have credible minimum deterrence that underpins the commitment to no first use”.

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