India is developing border villages in Arunachal Pradesh as tourist hubs through a civil-military partnership as an answer to China’s so-called model villages or xiaokang close to the line of actual control (LAC), people familiar with the development said.
The idea is to not only boost the local economy and stop migration from border villages to the cities but also assert India’s dominance near the border at a time when there is volatility at the LAC.
The emphasis is on developing homestays, treks, camping sites, adventure sports activities and spiritual tours, the people added, asking not to be named.
The Arunachal Pradesh government is actively considering promoting tours to the World War II planes’ crash sites in the state, which has a 1,129 km (about 701.53 miles) long international border with China.
Work on developing homestays, camping sites, zip-lines and trekking routes is already on in Kaho — the first village on Indo-China border in eastern Arunachal Pradesh, as well as Kibithoo and Meshai . Other areas of Anjaw district in the eastern part of the state , home of the Mishmi and Meyor tribes, are also being developed.
To make access to the remote state easier, the state administration has also decided to build a commercial landing ground for helicopters at Walong, the nearest Advance Landing Ground of Indian Air Force (IAF); this will help people fly in from Dibrugarh.
“We have trained several young people in rafting, paragliding, car and bike rallies, angling and other adventure activities. There is so much to experience for people –breathtaking mountains and stunning valleys. Infrastructure is being developed big-time in remote border villages. Road connectivity work is going . New trekking routes have been opened. The Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) itself is monitoring the work in these villages,” Pema Khandu, chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh told HT in Kibithoo during the launch of Vibrant Villages Programme (VVP) by union home minister Amit Shah earlier this week.
“There are already signs of reverse migration in the border villages,” he added.
Shah himself lauded the natural beauty of the area during his first visit to the region on April 10-11 and urged people from rest of India to visit there.
“Captured the beautiful landscapes during my visit to Kibithoo, India’s first village. Arunachal Pradesh is blessed with immense natural beauty. I urge all to visit Arunachal Pradesh, especially Kibithoo, to be inspired by its history and stunned by nature’s marvels,” he tweeted on Wednesday.
He said in another tweet the VVP will further boost connectivity and development in border villages.
China has built over 600 xiaokang villages across LAC in areas stretching from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh in last 9-10 years. Many of these villages are in proximity to strategically important positions on the Indian side, raising concerns in India’s security establishment which believes Beijing could use these villages as staging camps in case of a conflict. People deployed at the border said most of these xiaokang are empty.