Conflict & Justice

Eyeing China, India plans railways in disputed state


The Chimmey Monastery, visited by Tibetan Spritual leader the Dalai Lama, is seen in Tawang, in the northwestern corner of Arunachal Pradesh state on November 12, 2009, on the last day of his visit to the disputed region. The Dalai Lama said religious "duty" compelled him to make his visit to a Buddhist region near India's disputed Himalayan border with Tibet that has infuriated China.



In a move to counter China's efforts to claim territory along the disputed border, India plans to build three railway lines in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, including one that will connect the ethnic Tibetan center of Tawang to the state of Assam, the Indian Express reports.

In the past, India has avoided developing infrastructure along the border, with the logic that roads and railways might facilitate an invading army. But in recent years, China's moves to develop its side of the Line of Actual Control have prompted India also to consider development and tourism as political instruments to bulwark its claims of sovereignty over the region.

Of the railway lines that have been proposed, the Tawang line is the most significant, considering the strategic importance of the area which is also a major Indian military base, the paper said. At present, the only way to reach the area is by helicopter or a road that frequently closes down in bad weather.

Beijing lays claim to 90,000 sq km of land in the border state, which it claims as part of southern Tibet, and has reacted angrily to visits by state dignitaries and especially the 2009 visit of the Dalai Lama.

Many observers type China's bellicose stance on the border as part of an effort to tie India down with regional issues and military worries so that it cannot expand its power in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia.  But border disputes in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh lay at the heart of the 1962 war between the two nations, and they have never been resolved.