Why China Claims Arunachal Pradesh?


Arunachal Pradesh is a state located in the northeastern region of India. The history of Arunachal Pradesh can be traced back to ancient times, with evidence of human habitation dating back to the Neolithic period. The earliest known history of the state dates back to the 1st millennium BCE, when the area was inhabited by various tribes, including the Monpa, Adi, Apatani, Mishmi, Nyishi, etc. These tribes were organised into small independent kingdoms, which were often in conflict with each other. During the mediaeval period, Arunachal Pradesh came under the influence of various kingdoms and empires. The Ahom Kingdom, which ruled Assam from the 13th to the 18th century after conquering the region in the 16th century, had a significant impact on the region’s history. Arunachal Pradesh, meaning “Land of the Rising Sun,” also finds its mention in such ancient Hindu literature as the Kalika Purana, Mahabharata, and Ramayana.

In the 19th century, the British established control over the region, and Arunachal Pradesh became a part of the British Raj. The British established a presence in the region, but they did not attempt to directly rule it. Instead, they created a buffer zone between British India and Tibet by negotiating treaties with the local rulers. After India gained independence in 1947, the Indian government inherited the British policy of non-interference in the region. In 1951, the Indian government established the North East Frontier Agency (NEFA), which was responsible for administering the region. The NEFA was later renamed Arunachal Pradesh and became a union territory in 1972. During the 1960s and 1970s, there was a movement for statehood, led by the All Arunachal Pradesh Students’ Union (AAPSU). The movement was successful, and Arunachal Pradesh became the 24th state of India on 20 February 1987.


The geography of Arunachal Pradesh is characterised by its mountainous terrain and its rich biodiversity. The state has a total area of 83,743 square kilometres, making it the largest state in Northeast India. It is endowed with thick evergreen forests, numerous streams, rivers, and gorges. It is home to hundreds of species of flora and fauna that cover more than 60% of the total area. The state encompasses three broad physiographic regions. The Siwalik Range-like foothills that rise from the Assam plains to heights of 1,000 to 3,300 feet are located in the far south. The Lesser Himalayas, where some ridges and spurs surpass 10,000 feet, are located to the north of those hills. The main ranges of the Great Himalayas are located further north, close to the Tibetan border, and Kangto, the state’s highest peak, dominates the region with a height of around 23,260 feet. (7,090 metres).

Mechuka giant flying squirrel (Exclusive species of Arunachal Pradesh)

Exotic animal.

Exotic plant and animal species abound in Arunachal Pradesh. More than 500 bird species have been identified, including many that are unique to this state and many of which are critically endangered, such as the white-winged duck, sclater, monal bangal florian, etc. Over 500 of the approximately 1,000 orchid species that exist in India can be found in the state of Arunachal Pradesh alone. The wildlife is equally rich and varied, which includes elephants, tigers, leopards, jungle cats, white gibbons, red pandas, musk oxen, and the “Mithun” (Bos frontalis). The state is divided into five river valleys: the Kameng, the Subansiri, the Siang, the Lohit, and the Tirap. The Siang, also known as the Tsangpo in Tibet, is the largest river. It becomes the Brahmaputra after the Dibang and the Lohit in the plains of Assam join it. Nature finds delightful expression in the state’s folk songs, dances, and crafts.


Arunachal Pradesh is home to 26 major tribes and a number of subtribes. The state can be divided into three cultural groups on the basis of their socio-politico-religious affinities.

The first are the Monpas and the Sherdukpens of Tawang and West Kameng districts. They practise the lamaistic traditions of Mahayana Buddhism. Membas and Khambas, who reside in the high mountains along the state’s northern boundaries and share a similar culture, are Hinayana Buddhists, as are Khamptis and Singphos, who live in the state’s eastern region.

tribes of Arunachal Pradesh
Nocte tribe of Arunachal Pradesh.

The second group includes Adis, Akas, Apatanis, Bangnis, Nishings, Mishmis, Mijis, Tangsas, etc., who revere the sun and the moon, namely Donyi Polo and Abotani, the original ancestors of most of these tribes. Their religious rituals largely coincide with the phases of the moon or agricultural cycles.

The third group comprises the Noctes and Wanchos, adjoining Nagaland in the Tirap district. Their regulated village life, in which the hereditary village leader still plays a crucial role, is noted for its diligent inhabitants. Additionally, the Noctes practise a basic form of Vaishnavism.


China refers to Arunachal Pradesh (what it calls Zangnan) as “South Tibet” and asserts that it is a part of its territory. China claims Arunachal Pradesh primarily because of its historical and cultural links to Tibet. Tawang, an adjoining district of Arunachal Pradesh, has always held a unique place in Tibet’s culture. It’s because Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama, was born in Urgyeling, a town close to Tawang. Even the 14th Dalai Lama fled China-occupied Tibet by crossing into Tawang in 1959. Therefore, China intended to confirm its control over Tibet by claiming Arunachal. China frequently publishes fictitious maps that depict Arunachal as a part of China in order to support its claim. Additionally, it frequently gives new names to locations in Arunachal. Recently, China released new names for 11 places in Arunachal Pradesh.

 Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama.
Tsangyang Gyatso, the Sixth Dalai Lama.

Second, China intends to utilise its claim on Arunachal Pradesh as a bargaining chip to get India to recognise Aksai Chin as Chinese territory. Even during the 1962 war, Beijing placed more strategic value on the Aksai Chin than the NEFA. Once the war ended, China held on to Aksai Chin but pulled back from NEFA. For China, Arunachal is all about a swap. If Beijing can get India to acknowledge Aksai Chin as Chinese territory, it will recognise the NEFA, or now Arunachal, as Indian. However, India has consistently rejected China’s baseless claims and maintained that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of its territory.


Arunachal Pradesh, despite being a frontline state with strategic importance, did not get enough attention. As a result, the state faces several development challenges, including inadequate infrastructure, low levels of education, and high poverty rates. To address these challenges, various development projects have been initiated in Arunachal Pradesh.

In 2022, the GOI approved a 2574-km Frontier highway project worth Rs 44,000 crore for Arunachal Pradesh. This includes:

  • The 1465-kilometer-long two-lane Frontier Highway is worth Rs. 27,349 crore.
  • A two-lane inter-connectivity corridor of 1048 km worth 15,720 cr.
  • Two-lane Brahmakund (Parshuramkund) to Chowkham is 61 km, worth 915 cr.
Frontier highway.
Picture Credit – The Print.

This will safeguard the Indo-China-Myanmar border and control migration from border areas while improving the tourism infrastructure in the state. In 2022, the government inaugurated the 600 MW Kameng Hydro Power Station in Arunachal Pradesh. This will make Arunachal a power-surplus state with huge benefits to the National Grid. In addition, GOI also approved 27 road projects to boost connectivity in the state. In 2023, the GOI approved the largest hydropower project, the Dibang Multipurpose Project, in Arunachal. The project will generate 2,880 MW (12×240 MW) of power to produce 11,223 MU of energy in a 90 percent reliable year.

Apart from several infrastructure and power projects, India also conducted an essential G20 meeting in Arunachal Pradesh. This move came as a shock to China, which claimed it as its territory. The G20 met in an international affair that gave Arunachal Pradesh global recognition as an Indian territory. This move proved to be a masterstroke as far as Indian interests are concerned. This not only asserted India’s claim on Arunachal Pradesh in the global community but also exposed Arunachal’s beauty to the world, which would further help to attract tourism as well as foreign investments.

Also Read, Understanding Dynamics Of India-Russia Relations


Arunachal Pradesh is a northeastern bordering state of India. It is strategically located at the northeastern tip of the country, bordering China, Bhutan, and Myanmar. Arunachal Pradesh is a disputed territory between India and China, with China claiming the entire region as its own. The state therefore becomes a national security concern for India and is a vital part of India’s defence strategy. Arunachal Pradesh is home to a significant military presence due to its strategic location. The Indian Army has several bases and airfields in the state, which serve as a forward defence against any potential threat from China or other neighbouring countries.

Local people of Arunachal Pradesh protesting against China’s claim on the state.

Arunachal Pradesh is strategically located at the crossroads of Southeast Asia, China, and India. This makes it a crucial component of India’s “Act East” policy, which aims to strengthen economic and political ties with the countries of Southeast Asia. The state serves as a gateway to the northeastern region of India and has the potential to act as a hub for trade and commerce between the two regions. Apart from its strategic location, Arunachal is rich in natural resources, including forests, minerals, and hydropower potential. The region’s natural resources are of strategic importance to India’s economic growth and development.

In conclusion, Arunachal Pradesh is a strategically important state for India due to its border security, natural resources, connectivity, and cultural significance. The state’s security and development are crucial for India’s national interests, and the country is committed to safeguarding its borders and promoting the region’s economic growth and cultural heritage.


Anmol Kaushik

Hi, I'm Anmol Kaushik, I'm currently pursuing Law (4th year) at Vivekananda Institute of Professional Studies (GGSIPU). I'm a defence enthusiast and a keen geopolitical observer.


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