Chinese checkers

Flights Of Fantasy

[ M Panging Pao ]

Alarm bells rang with the recent news about the completion of the 67 kilometre long highway across one of the deepest gorges connecting the Chinese city of Nyingchi with Baibung in Medog county, cutting travel time by eight hours. This road traverses the Namcha Barwa area, located just a few kilometres north of Gelling-Tuting in Arunachal.

In 2017, the Siang river’s waters suddenly turned blackish with dark, oily patches all along the river causing great worry in downstream areas of Arunachal and Assam. This development was allegedly caused by construction of a 1,000 mile long massive tunnel to divert the waters of the Yarlung Tsangpo to Xinjiang province of China. A few months back, the Siang river turned muddy again, and this may also be traced to massive construction activity on the Chinese side.

China has already constructed two dams over the Yarlung Tsangpo at Zangmu and Zam. Three more dams are under construction in Dagu, Jiacha and Jeixu. Reports indicate that China has revived plans to construct a massive dam near Namcha Barwa. All these construction on the Yarlung Tsangpo are without any guarantees to both affected downstream countries, India and Bangladesh. Presently, India and China do not have any river water sharing treaty.

Reports also indicate massive Chinese focus on development of infrastructure along the border. These consist of railways, all-weather roads, airports, towns/villages. Recently, China launched a plan to build ‘moderately well-off villages’ along China’s borders with India, Bhutan and Nepal. Regarding railways, in addition to the main Xining-Lhasa railway line, another rail link between Lhasa and Nyingchi (opposite Mechuka) is planned to open next month. This railway line will further connect with Chengdu in Sichuan province. There already exists an all-weather road along the border, which has been bolstered by the recently completed road.

To counter these developments, India is also pushing infrastructure development along the border. Strategically important roads/rails/bridges like road/rail bridge over the Brahmaputra at Bogibeel, the Sadiya bridge, the Bomjir bridge and the Sissiri bridge were completed. Six ALGs were commissioned in Pasighat, Ziro, Aalo, Mechuka, Tuting and Walong. The Missamari-Tenga Valley-Tawang, Murkongselek-Pasighat-Tezu-Namsai railway lines are planned. In addition to the Trans-Arunachal Highway, a road along the border is also planned. Similarly, recently, plans were approved to develop selected border villages.

China is an aspiring superpower and is a clear and present danger. Being a frontline state, Arunachal is directly affected. The only way to counter the Chinese threat is by expediting construction of infrastructure like key roads, railways, bridges, airfields, fuel/ammunition depots, hardened shelters, etc, along the Sino-India border. India also needs to sign a river water treaty with China at the earliest. India has already experienced a setback during the 1962 Sino-Indian war. In addition, regular incursions, skirmishes and violent clashes have occurred at Doklam, Nathula, Galwan valley, Chaklagam, Asaphila, etc. To add salt to injury, India and Arunachal are being ravaged by the Chinese-originated Wuhan coronavirus while there are minimal cases in China. We need to learn and adopt the Chanakya niti.   (The contributor is retired Group Captain, Indian Air Force)