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China launches electric bullet train in Tibet near Arunachal Pradesh

China launches electric bullet train in Tibet near Arunachal Pradesh

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  • GS 3 || Security || Tackling Security Threats || Border Management

Why in news?

  • China has launched the first fully electrified bullet train in Tibet’s Himalayan region, linking the provincial capital of Lhasa to Nyingchi, near the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

Details

  • China unveiled its first fully electrified bullet train in the remote Himalayan region of Tibet.
  • The bullet train connects the provincial capital Lhasa and Nyingchi, which is a strategically located Tibetan border town close to Arunachal Pradesh.
  • The Lhasa-Nyingchi section is a part of the Sichuan-Tibet Railway.
  • This is the first electrified railway to be made operational in the Tibet Autonomous Region.

How is it beneficial to China?

  • Time reduction
    • Through the train, which has a speed of 160km per hour, the travel time between Lhasa and Nyingchi has reduced from five hours to approximately 3.5 hours.
  • Border stability
    • China wants to expedite the construction of the new railway project for Connecting Sichuan Province and Nyingchi in Tibet.
    • The new rail line would be a key player in safeguarding border interest and stability.
  • Strategic use
    • In case of crisis at the China-India border, the railway will provide a great convenience for China’s delivery of strategic materials,“

Should India be worried?

  • Nyingchi is the prefecture-level city of Medog which is adjacent to the Arunachal Pradesh border in India.
  • China has claimed Arunachal Pradesh as part of South Tibet, which has always been firmly rejected by India. The border dispute between India and China covers the 3,488 km long Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • While the rail line, along with several other rail and road-building projects, is being touted as part of plans to build Tibet’s economic infrastructure, strategic thinkers in India have been seeing red.
  • The line, some of them believe, can bring in troops and military equipment rapidly from mainland China to Indian borders.
  • Roads and rail lines are being built all across Tibet — the rail lines from the mainland have already reached the Chumbi Valley bordering Sikkim and in Nyingchi across Arunachal.

Challenges on India-China border

  • The border between India and China is not demarcated throughout.
  • Along certain stretches of its 3,488-km length, there is no mutually agreed Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • India, following Independence, believed it had inherited firm boundaries from the British, but this was contrary to China’s view.
  • China felt the British had left behind a disputed legacy on the boundary between the two newly formed republics.
  • The India-China border is divided into three sectors
    • Western:The boundary dispute in the Western Sector pertains to the Johnson Line proposed by the British in the 1860s that extended up to the Kunlun Mountains and put Aksai Chin in the then princely state of Jammu and Kashmir.
    • Middle:In the Middle Sector, the dispute is a minor one. It is the only one where India and China have exchanged maps on which they broadly agree.
    • Eastern:The disputed boundary in the Eastern Sector of the India-China border is over the MacMahon Line.
  • Despite the passage of nearly six decades, the border issue remains unresolved. It has become one of the world’s most protracted border disputes.
  • Disagreements
    • India’s claim line is different from that of the LAC. It is the line seen in the official boundary marked on the maps as released by the Survey of India, including Aksai Chin (occupied by China).
    • In China’s case,LAC corresponds mostly to its claim line, but in the eastern sector, it claims the entire Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet.
    • The claim lines come into question when a discussion on the final international boundaries takes place, and not when the conversation is about a working border i.e. LAC.

Why is the LAC not clarified?

  • To prevent faceoff like incidents, India has long proposed an exercise to clarify differing perceptions of the LAC.
  • Maps were exchanged in the Middle Sector, but the exercise failed in the Western Sector, where there is the most divergence.
  • China has since rejected this exercise, seeing it as adding another layer of complexity to the ongoing border negotiations.
  • India argues that rather than agreeing on a single LAC, the exercise could help both sides understand the other’s claims, paving the way for regulation of activities in contested areas until a final settlement of the boundary dispute is reached.

India’s infrastructure at the Chinese border

  • Earlier, the government followed a restrictive policy, and areas along the China border were not developed much.
  • In June 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has announced to spend 10% of funds of the Border Area Development Programme (BADP) only to improve the infrastructure along the China border.
    • Enhancing Infrastructure
      • The Border Area Development Programme (BADP) has been allocated 784 crore for projects in areas of States/UTs inhabited along the Indo-China border i.e. Arunachal Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh, Sikkim, and Uttarakhand.
    • In February 2021, The Union government approved more than Rs 1,100 crore for critical infrastructure development in Arunachal Pradesh under Phase II.
      • Indo-China Border Roads
        • The first phase began in 2005 when it was decided that the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) would build 27 priority roads totalling 608 km along with China areas at an estimated cost of Rs. 912 crore, with the remaining 14 roads being built by agencies such as the Border Roads Organisation (BRO).
        • The Darbuk-Shayok-Daulat Beg Oldie (DS-DBO) road and Rohtang tunnel in Ladakh, as well as the Sela Tunnel and a road and rail tunnel under the Brahmaputra river with Indian Railways, are among the important projects.
      • Critical Infrastructure Development in Arunachal Pradesh
        • The majority of projects have been allocated to areas along the China border in Arunachal’s north and northeast.
        • It has motorable roads, mule trails, and porter facilities. It calls for the construction of 598 kilometres of roads and 18 kilometres of footpaths.
        • This will improve the capabilities of the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP), which patrols the border. The Army can use these tracks to supplement the main border roads for the transportation of men and materials.
      • Role of Security Forces
        • Security forces such as the Border Security Force (BSF) deployed along the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) deployed along the China border, the Sashastra Seema Bal deployed along the Nepal border, and the Assam Rifles stationed along the Myanmar border would provide independent feedback on the projects in the affected blocks and may be tasked with monitoring them.
        • These forces will be critical in identifying the villages and carrying out the related work.

Significance of better border  infrastructure

  • Safe and Secure Borders: It would foster a positive sense of care and encourage people to remain in border areas, resulting in safe and secure borders.
    • This would aid in the integration of these areas with the hinterland.
  • Bridging socioeconomic gaps: It is an important intervention of the government to bring about border area development by supplementing State Plan Funds to bridge socioeconomic infrastructure gaps on the one hand and improving the security environment in border areas on the other.
  • Better Border Management: In light of the incidents of border clashes between India and China, the construction of infrastructure is a strategic move for better border management.
    • It will allow troops and equipment to move more quickly to the Chinese border.
    • India is constructing infrastructure to improve connectivity to China’s Line of Actual Control.
      • For example, as part of the Char Dham Pariyojana, a strategic tunnel is being built in Uttarakhand.
    • Lack of proper communication and other basic facilities in border areas affects not only the local population but is also a major source of concern for the country’s security.
    • The northeast insurgency, smuggling, and illegal migration are all factors that necessitate more restricted border security.
    • Encroachment: China has made rapid progress in Arunachal’s border areas, establishing new villages and a maze of roads, including highways.

Importance of Roads and infrastructure  near Arunachal Border

  • Arunachalshares its longest border with China, followed by Myanmar and Bhutan.
  • Further, China claims the entire Arunachal Pradesh as South Tibet.
  • The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) built the Daporijo bridge across the Subansiri River in Arunachal Pradesh.
    • It connects roads that lead up to India’s and China’s Line of Actual Control (LAC).
  • The Defence Minister has virtually laid the groundwork for a tunnel at Nechiphu in Arunachal Pradesh’s West Kameng district.
  • The state government at work
    • Arunachal Pradesh’s state government has advocated for the selection of ten census towns along the India-China border as pilot projects for infrastructure development to prevent people living along the state’s international borders, particularly with China, from migrating to far-flung urban centres in the state.

So, how is India responding?

  • Developing Military infrastructure
    • Unable to build a road for road and track for track, India has been building military infrastructure that could neutralise the threat.
    • Squadrons of Sukhoi-30MKI have been moved to Hashimara, Chabua and Tezpur, and Brahmos cruise missile to an unknown spot.
    • They are now being joined by a Rafale squadron, initially with five jets.
  • The border tension with China at multiple points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) is more serious indicating China’s planning and the possibility of a long standoff.
  • Thereby, infrastructure development would help integrate these areas with the hinterland, create a positive perception of care by the country, and encourage people to stay in border areas, leading to safe and secure borders.

Mains model question

  • Infrastructure development would aid in the integration of border areas with the hinterland, foster a positive perception of care by the country, and encourage people to remain in border areas, resulting in safe and secure borders. Discuss.

References