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Updated December 31st, 2023 at 18:01 IST

China's aggressive expansion raises alarms along Sino-Indian border close to Arunachal’s Tawang

China's recent establishment of "xiaokang" villages near Yangtse, a previous site of Sino-Indian conflict, is heightening tensions in the region.

Yuvraj Tyagi
Chinese military
Chinese military | Image:Chinamil
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China's recent construction of border defence villages near Yangtse, the site of a previous Sino-Indian clash, underscores heightened tensions in the region. The development, detected through satellite imagery, reveals a deliberate effort to reshape the geopolitical landscape along the disputed border. According to a report by Tibetan Review, China has established so-called "xiaokang" villages, strategically positioned just miles from the Arunachal Pradesh border in Tibet's Nagdoh bowl.

This move is seen as a tactical gray-zone approach, falling short of direct confrontation but raising concerns about its potential military implications. China's claim over Arunachal Pradesh and its continuous efforts to strengthen its presence in the area have led to the construction of xiaokang villages. 

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Past clashes Yangtse and ongoing geopolitical maneuvers 

Recent satellite imagery analysis indicates substantial growth in the city of Nyingchi since late 2020, suggesting a broader strategy aimed at consolidating control along the border. Yangtse, where a clash occurred between Chinese and Indian troops a year ago, remains strategically vital. The Indian Army's advantageous position in Yangtse has prompted the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to seek a permanent presence in nearby xiaokang villages, signaling a continued focus on altering ground realities in the region.

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Credit- Chinamil

Despite being part of a long-running understanding between the two sides, the clashes in Yangtse have amplified concerns. The PLA's desire to change the status quo and establish a foothold near the border heightens tensions, demanding a nuanced understanding of China's intentions and strategic maneuvers. 

Gray-zone Tactics: Xiaokang cillages as a dual-use strategy 

China's construction of xiaokang villages blurs the line between civilian and military infrastructure, reflecting a dual-use strategy. These settlements, initially presented as occupied by local cattle herders, have raised suspicions among Indian policymakers about potential military applications and the ability to launch offenses into Indian territory.

As a "gray-zone" tactic, xiaokang villages fall into a quasi-military category that deliberately avoids crossing the threshold of open conflict. This approach, while not escalating to war, introduces complexities in the region, demanding careful monitoring and diplomatic engagement between the two nations. 

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The geopolitical implications of China's border village expansion near Yangtse extend beyond the immediate territorial dispute. The ongoing strategic maneuvers require a delicate balance of informed diplomacy and a nuanced understanding of China's tactics to navigate the complex realities along the Sino-Indian border. As both nations continue to assert their interests, the situation calls for careful observation and proactive diplomatic initiatives to prevent further escalation. 

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Published December 31st, 2023 at 17:30 IST

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