Further evidencing India’s new center-right government’s focus on actively developing India’s claim to Arunachal Pradesh, an Indian state claimed almost in its entirety by China, India’s central government plans to provide “military training” to ” people living in areas close to the China-Indian border,” according to The Times of India. According to a report in the Times of India based off “sources within the home ministry,” the Indian government plans to actively encourage Indians living in these areas to be prepared to take up arms “at the level of a paramilitary force … so that in times of emergency they can be utilized.” India already maintains a forward military position in these areas, having relatively recently moved two mountain divisions into the harsh terrain of northern Arunachal Pradesh.
“[A] border population makes the eyes and ears of a government on the border. They are the biggest bulwark against any aggression by the enemy as they live there and watch every movement. [The] world over, governments encourage people to settle on the border. Only in India this is discouraged in the name of ‘sensitivity’,” said “a senior home ministry official,” cited by the Times of India.
The report comes after earlier reports that India would earmark funds for developing the Sino-Indian borderlands in Arunachal Pradesh with the intention of promoting migration and settlement into these areas. The Modi government’s policy on developing Arunchal Pradesh seems to be spearheaded by the current Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju, an Arunachal native. “The negative policy of the past — that the border should be closed, not be accessible to civilians, not be developed — will be done away with. We have come to the conclusion that we must initiate steps to enhance our capacity, manpower and developmental activities along the border. Fences cannot be there; there is no demarcation,” he noted in a prior interview.
As I’ve noted previously on The Diplomat, the Modi government’s initiatives in Arunachal Pradesh demonstrate that despite China’s best diplomatic attempts to transform the bilateral relationship to focus exclusively on positive sum economic developments, India’s government is far from abandoning years of pent up strategic mistrust toward China’s intentions for Arunachal Pradesh. Indeed, it is revealing that the home ministry official cited by The Times of India openly refers to potential “aggression by the enemy” as one of the causes necessitating these measures. It remains to be seen how New Delhi will implement its plan to convert the residents of northern Arunachal Pradesh into an ad hoc paramilitary force to be called up in the occasion of a potential skirmish between Indian and Chinese forces.