India’s easiest land access to China and that too not over icy mountainous Himalaya, is slowly opening up as the Indian army and their Chinese counterpart recently completed the third border personnel meeting (BPM) at Wacha in Arunachal Pradesh, the smoothest gateway to the land of the dragon from our country.
When Brigadier Manjeet Mehta welcomed the Chinese delegation leader Senior Colonel Yang Ping Jiang to a small house in Wacha, history was made on May 5 and the dream of driving into China is slowly turning into reality. This is the sleepy road that can open up the Northeast India to China and beyond. Most importantly, it does not need any major infrastructure, because the road from both sides very well exist and barely used. It may be too early to dream of an immigration point and then drive in to the most beautiful region of China through a beautiful highway, but the fact is that it is not an impossibility as the geographical terrain is so surprisingly easy and smoot with both sides having good roads all the way up to the border. The Chinese delegation was treated to a large spread of traditional Indian delicacies. The event culminated with an exchange of gifts and joint photo session between the delegation members.
Unlike all other existing cross border facilities — Nathula in Sikkim or Bumla in Tawang — Wacha is not difficult to reach. Relatively in very low height, it is situated in the northeastern-most tip of India where the great Himalayan range is at its lowest height. One can drive from Tiniuskia — the broad gauge railway head with a daily Rajdhani Express connection to New Delhi — to Wacha in a single day crossing around 300 kilometres along the Lohit valley.
“On the occasion of the third formal BPM at Wacha along the traditional Rima-Tezu route in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, our border troops of Lohit Valley Sector, invited their Chinese counterparts to farther the bilateral relations, mutual trust and cooperation. The Chinese officers and soldiers, attired in full regalia, marched almost three kilometres from Damai on the Chinese side to Wacha across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to honour the invitation extended by the Indian Army to foster the established peace and tranquillity amongst the two great ancient nations,” said Brigadier Mehta.
Although the Chinese are quite secretive about their area, it is well known that they have very good all-weather roads from Rima to the interiors of China and most of these are four-lane. The route has been a traditional one and till 1960 it was quite active using the Lohit river as a mode of transport.
As the Indo-China cooperation increases despite the itching over Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, the BPMs along the entire Indo-China border, stretching thousands of kilometres, are steadily increasing and fast becoming a regular feature, especially in the areas of Chushul, Nathula, Bum La and now near Wacha, to promote mutual faith and understanding. “These interactions between the Indian and Chinese forces started initially with flag meetings, later transformed into BPMs, and have since become a regular event. The recently concluded BPM near Wacha is seen as a giant step forward towards contributing significantly in cementing the bonds of friendship between the two countries,” the Brigadier said.
Wacha is located on the traditional age-old trade route between the two nations that follows the Lohit river. This route was in use for mutual trade by traders on both sides till as late as 1960. The first BPM at Wacha in Kibithu sector on Indian side was held in November 2006, while the second one was held in September 2008 on the Chinese side.
The road from Tinisukia to Walong is an all-weather road, free from snow as it does not reach great height. The last 30 kilometres from Walong to Kibithu is a little bit steep but that is nothing in comparison to great height and passes of Bumla or Nathula. Kibithu could well turn into a major international trading hub due to its natural resources and potential for trade. People on both sides of the border will benefit as and when the trade route is fully opened. Anjaw with its tremendous trade potential can trade its horticultural, agricultural, aromatic and medicinal produce in exchange for Chinese consumer and electronic goods.