New Village Near Tibet Sparks Talk of Eastern Front as China, India Face Off

A report by Indian media that Chinese authorities had recently constructed a village near the eastern stretch of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) separating both countries has cast a spotlight on a potential new front emerging in the eight-month border stand-off between the two nuclear-armed neighbours, The South China Morning Post reported.

New Delhi-based news channel NDTV on Tuesday said that based on satellite imagery, a village containing 101 homes in Arunachal Pradesh‘s Upper Subansiri district was constructed between August 2019 and November 2020.

The report said that the “full-fledged village that can house thousands” was 4.5km within “Indian territory” – in reference to an unresolved territorial dispute over the area that India administers but China claims is part of South Tibet. China has since 2017 built villages in border areas in the Tibet autonomous region, which borders Arunachal Pradesh, as part of a US$4.6 billion plan to ensure political stability in the area.

The report comes after Beijing announced last month that it planned to build a “super dam” on one of the world’s largest rivers, which China calls the Yarlung Zangbo and India refers to as the Brahmaputra. The river flows downstream from mainland China into Arunachal Pradesh, with the proposed dam just kilometres away from the point where the river enters India.

Experts have warned that the dam could negatively impact India’s water and food security as well as cause disasters like floods in the regions that it flows through – primarily Arunachal Pradesh and Assam in India.

More recently, India renovated and upgraded its existing Advanced Landing Grounds (ALGs) in Arunachal Pradesh and plans to build two more. In early January, the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi also awarded contracts to build six new roads in the border areas of Arunachal Pradesh.

This month alone, India’s chief of defence staff, General Bipin Rawat, and chief of air staff, Marshall R.K.S. Bhaduria, have visited forward bases and ALGs in Arunachal Pradesh. India is also planning to build a railway to connect Tawang in Arunachal Pradesh with Bhalukpong, a small town in the same region.