Tue, 30 May 2023

Beijing [China], March 30 (ANI): China's approach and tactics to develop its border areas, particularly along its borders with India, raises serious concerns from both the security and strategic perspectives, reported Political Research Foundation (PRF).

China has labelled its border area development efforts in terms of developing 'xiaokang' villages, an innocuous concept for its largely malign intentions and with clear external policy goals centred on coercion and encroachment.

In contrast, India's 'vibrant' villages model has been an effort oriented towards greater integration of the border areas with the mainland of the country and raising the standard of living of people residing in the border areas, reported PRF.

The insidious Chinese designs are in sharp contrast to India's recent efforts to promote economic development in the villages along its northern borders. India's focus on providing economic support to its border villages and prioritising infrastructure development has got focused attention in recent years.

In 2022, a major impetus for the economic development of India's border villages came from the announcement of the Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) announced by the Finance Minister in the Budget Speech 2022-23.

The VVP programme "envisages coverage of border villages on the northern borders having a sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure, which possibly have often got left out from the development gains" accruing to the rest of the nation, reported PRF.

The key outcomes of the initiative would be improving the people's standard of living in these areas by providing "connectivity with all-weather roads, drinking water, 24x7 electricity-solar and wind energy, mobile and internet connectivity, tourism, health and wellness centres."Such efforts by China to build infrastructure around the India-China border areas precede those of India by several decades. While the stated goals appear overtly noble, the underlying reasons have been clearly malicious for a number of reasons.

Firstly, these xiaokang villages are located very close to the India-China and Bhutan-China borders. Some of the villages are even being developed in the contested area around the Doklam Plateau. The capture of disputed territories by stealth appears to be China's tactic here, reported PRF.

Secondly, in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) region, the traditional inhabitants are Tibetans. However, in the guise of 'xiaokang villages, China aims to settle Han Chinese, preferably the retired military personnel from the People's Liberation Army (PLA), in these villages.

This serves four strategic purposes for China: 0ne, the retired PLA personnel would serve as the eyes and ears of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and PLA; second, enhance cultural exchanges and intermingling between the Han Chinese and Tibetans which in the long term would keep a check on pro-Dalai Lama and other hostile elements among the Tibetans; third ethnic cleansing of the indigenous population in XUAR (Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region) and Tibet; and fourth, all the above can be a force multiplier for strategic purposes, should the need arise, reported PRF.

In other words, through such efforts, China is gradually ensuring the implementation of its 'Sinicization' plans and improving the legitimacy of the CCP-approved Lamas like the Panchen Lama. Alternately, by populating these remote and contested locations with the Han Chinese, 'xiaokang' villages serve as a cover for Chinese efforts to make future territorial claims based on the argument of not disturbing 'settled populations' along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), as agreed upon in the 2005 Political Parameters and Guiding Principles for the Settlement of the India-China Boundary question, reported PRF.

In sharp contrast to the all-pervading Chinese State and PLA that dictates activities in the 'xiaokang villages,' the 'vibrant villages' in India are envisaged under a 'hub and spoke' model wherein the local district administration and the gram panchayats would be drawing out the 'Vibrant Village Action Plans,' with the role of the Union Government being limited to disbursal of funds.

Unlike the Chinese tactics of uprooting the local Tibetan population, 'vibrant villages' would be working to prevent the out-migration of people from their homes to the interior urban settlements of India and provide them with modern-day opportunities at their doorsteps, reported PRF.

In addition to the VVP, the Indian Government has also been taking steps for all-round development of the border regions. Implementation of the 'Aspirational Districts' programme across the country since 2018 that focuses on socio-economic aspects like "health and nutrition, education, agriculture and water resources, financial inclusion and skill development and basic infrastructure," included some of the less developed districts in the border areas as well.

Large infrastructure projects that have been either announced or are already under implementation include the Frontier Highway Project, Frontier Railway Project, hydropower projects like those in Dibang and Kameng, an airport at Donyi Polo etc. All of these projects are an essential component of Gross Budgetary Assistance (GBA) amounting to about Rs 11,000 crores (approx. USD 1.3 billion) for the holistic development of the northeastern region.

Unlike China, India has been consistently furthering its policy on protecting and promoting distinct tribal identities, their language and culture and taking effective steps to bring them to the forefront, reported PRF. (ANI)

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