Himalayan Challenge~II

Recent improvements in air connectivity and impending rail connectivity will go a long way in giving a boost to the development of the area. Arunachal Pradesh covers the largest geographical space among the eight sisters of the North-east.

Himalayan Challenge~II

Representation image (Photo:SNS)

Arunachal Pradesh, like Ladakh, has tremendous tourist potential. If development takes place in right earnest and at the right pace, tourism can emerge as a strong industry. Apart from scenic beauty, the flora and fauna of Arunachal Pradesh can also give fillip to lots of connected economic activities in the state, which may not only result in the development of the area, but also attract large investments.

Recent improvements in air connectivity and impending rail connectivity will go a long way in giving a boost to the development of the area. Arunachal Pradesh covers the largest geographical space among the eight sisters of the North-east. Apart from the strategic importance from the national security point of view, Arunachal Pradesh has tremendous geo-economic importance as well for the nation. If exploited well, it can open floodgates for the prosperity of the North-eastin general, and Arunachal Pradesh in particular.

The state is in the easternmost part of the country and shares international borders with Myanmar (520 km), China (1,080 km)and Bhutan (217 km). The geo-economic corridors of Arunachal Pradesh, if developed, will not only serve our national interest but also bolster cross-border trade relations with Myanmar, Bhutan and China as well. Nampong is situated in the Changlang district of Arunachal Pradesh, and it can be a developed as a corridor to serve our economic interests with the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). India has so far developed its two-lane highways, while China has renovated its own segment through six-lane highways. If the Myanmar segment is completed, Nampong can be connected to Muse, Lashio, Mandalay and Yangon (Myanmar) through Asian Highway (AH) 14, Ruili, Wanding and Kunming (China) through AH 3, and Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) and Singapore (Singapore) through AH 2, and further to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) and Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) of the greater Mekong sub-region through AH1.


The road distance between Nampong-Mandalay-Yangon (1428.2 km), Nampong-Bangkok (2091.1 km), Nampong-Kuala Lumpur (3436.7 km), NampongSingapore (3795.2 km), Nampong-Phnom Penh (2737.1 km) and Nampong-Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh (3066.6 km) is a beneficial proposition as compared to the trans-shipment of goods to Southeast/East Asia from the Northeast via Kolkata port, passing through the Siliguri corridor. The development of the Nampong corridor would promote subregional/regional cooperation, and it would generate opportunities for Arunachal Pradesh to collaborate with ASEAN, Mekong-Ganga Cooperation (MGC) and Bangladesh-ChinaIndia-Myanmar (BCIM) Forum on multiple fronts.

Tawang, which is situated in the western part of Arunachal Pradesh, can be a potential geo-economic corridor to Bhutan to reinforce India’s economic interests in the neighbourhood. Given the strategic importance of the place, the TawangLumla (Western Arunachal Pradesh)-Trashigang (Eastern Bhutan) patch can be developed to boost economic growth and development in the region. Arunachal Pradesh and Bhutan have many commonalities in the fields of ecology and natural resources, and in the fields of hydro power generation, tourism, food processing and beverage industries, the synergy can be utilised. Development of cross-border trade, and cooperation in the Indo-Bhutan sector would pave the way for sub-regional cooperation. This would subsequently strengthen the South Asian Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ) and Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) as well.

The Kibithoo corridor, situated in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh at an altitude of 4,070 feet above sea level,is an important area from the geo-economic point of view and it can be developed as an all-weather road to the Tibet Autonomous Region, Sichuan and Yunnan of China. It will provide shorter and faster access to Indian industries to tap the southwestern and southeastern Chinese markets. The proposed geo-economic passage would counter Chinese penetration into the region while reinforcing India’s strategic significance along the McMahon Line.

China has already built up several infrastructure projects along the international boundary near Arunachal Pradesh. Development of Kibithoo may result in development of trade between India and China and may result in concomitant development of the region. Arunachal Pradesh can fit in the larger canvas of trade activities to play a bigger role in the India-China sector despite Chinese intransigence over the McMahon line. Any cross-border initiative is to be based on mutual compatibilities and not on intransigence or hegemony. A unilateral Chinese position would only foment trouble between the two Asian giants, and would adversely impact the peace in the region.

India and China being emerging global powers should work together to design the destiny of the Asian century. As such, proactive dialogues along with strategic preparedness are to be sustained for crossborder engagement between India and China. What is required is a joint IndoChina effort to transform this geostrategic zone into a geo-economic zone for a win-win situation for both countries. Arunachal Pradesh can be a potential geoeconomic corridor to the East. Special Economic Zones, as well as industrial corridors, should be developed and the capabilities of the state in hydro power, horticulture, handicrafts and handlooms, and tourism should be explored by tapping cross-border synergies.

Additionally, security threats,in the form of smuggling of drugs and small arms, and dumping of Chinese goods, if any, can be identified and the challenges can be addressed appropriately so that the pace of development takes off. It is highly essential as well that Arunachal Pradesh should come up with specific products and earn a ‘Make in Arunachal’ image to expand its global reach. The requirement is to frame action-oriented policies along with a fresh vision document, ‘Arunachal Vision 2040’, and then transform them into practice at the ground level for the benefit of all.

Nepal, being a landlocked country sandwiched between India and China, holds strategic importance for India. Both countries have historically maintained close ties due to their shared cultural and religious heritage. However, in recent years, China’s increasing influence in Nepal has caused concerns for India. China has invested heavily in Nepal’s infrastructure development, leading to speculation about its long-term strategic intentions. India, on the other hand, is keen to maintain its historical ties with Nepal and ensure stability in the region.The recent visit of the Nepalese Prime Minister to China and signing of various pacts with it shows that vis-à-vis India, Nepal is more inclined to develop relations with China mainly because of economic considerations, but it has a serious implication on the security scenario of our nation. Bhutan, a small landlocked kingdom, has traditionally been an ally of India. India’s close cooperation with Bhutan stems from their shared security concerns and close cultural ties. Bhutan is crucial for India’s security as it acts as a buffer state between India and China. India has maintained a strong military presence in Bhutan and provides assistance in various developmental projects. However, China’s recent attempts to establish diplomatic ties with Bhutan have raised concerns for India’s strategic interests. Pakistan, situated to the northwest of India, shares a volatile relationship with India. The Himalayan region of Jammu and Kashmir, which is disputed between the two countries, has been a bone of contention for decades. The rugged terrain and difficult climate conditions in the Himalayas make it an ideal theatre for cross-border insurgency and terrorism. India has witnessed numerous security challenges emanating from the Himalayan region, making it crucial for India’s security apparatus to keep a close watch on developments in this area.

India’s strategic considerations in the Himalayan region revolve around maintaining its territorial integrity, preserving its influence, and countering potential threats from its neighbours. India has focused on enhancing its military capabilities, building infrastructure, and strengthening diplomatic relationships with its Himalayan neighbours to protect its interests. Cooperation with other countries such as the United States, Japan, and Australia, which also have concerns about China’s assertive behaviour, has gained importance in recent years. In conclusion, the Himalayan nations hold a significant position in India’s geo-political and strategic calculations.

The region’s geography shared cultural ties, and security concerns have made it imperative for India to closely monitor developments in this area and take necessary steps to safeguard its interests. By maintaining strong ties, enhancing military capabilities, and developing robust infrastructure, India aims to ensure its security and influence in the Himalayan region.

(The writer, a retired IPS officer, has served in various capacities including as Commissioner of Delhi Police, DG-BSF, DG-NCB, DG-BCAS and Special Director, CBI. He can be reached at asthaanarakesh@gmail.com)