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India Putting Down Roots in Contested Territory

Over fifty years ago, India and China fought a war over Arunachal Pradesh, a remote northeastern state now administered by India, though China still lays claim to the territory. About 1.4 million people live in the Himalayan region, a population India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi hopes will grow substantially. According to Bloomberg, Modi is planning to invest billions of dollars on infrastructure in the region:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is finalizing blueprints for a $6 billion highway in Arunachal Pradesh, which is also claimed by China. Construction on the 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) road will start as early as 2018, Kiren Rijiju, minister of state for home affairs, said in an interview.

“If China is developing on their side of the territory, we should develop on our side,” Rijiju, a native of Arunachal Pradesh, said at his New Delhi residence on Saturday. “India has failed the people living along that border. We’re now taking very concrete steps in that direction.”

The chattering classes like to imagine that territorial disputes are a thing of our oh-so-backward past, yet land grabs and settlement-building are tools still employed by governments around the world. Many of today’s most consequential geopolitical questions are about who should control land and sea: the Spratlys, Crimea, the Senkaku/Diaoyu islands, the Arctic Sea—to name a few. It’s remarkable how easily Westerners can forget the many bloody wars Europe fought to create stable nation-states, and it’s foolish to assume the rest of the world will resolve its conflicts some other way.

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