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Catch a train from Guwahati in the evening and get down at Tinsukia early in the morning and jump on to a waiting SUV. by late evening you should be in China.
Yes, it is possible and that too with the present infrastructure linking Tinsukia and Rima, two large towns, the latter being much bigger and planned than the former.
Shocking for most but that is the reality. You climb into an SUV in Tinsukia, drive down the Parasuram-Kunda-Hailalyung-Walong-Kibithu route and finally reach Rima in Yunan province. It is a different matter that there is no immigration facility here to check your passport and that you would be stooped by the respective armies of the two countries. But the fact remains that there are very easy and good roads which go right up to the border and ones that are not very mountainous. If New Delhi and Beijing agree someday, you can drive down to China, spending just about Rs 2000 for fuel.
There are indications that India's easiest land access to China, and that too not over the icy Himalayas, is slowly becoming a reality as the Indian army and Chinese PLA are cozying up to each other at Kibithu at the Indo-China border in Arunachal Pradesh, the smoothest gateway to China from India.
Couple of years back, Brigadier Manjeet Mehta welcomed the leader of the Chinese delegation, Senior Colonel Yang Ping Jiang, to a small house in Wacha just across Kibithu, the Brigade HQ of the Indian Army. To me, it seemed it was history in the making.
This is the sleeping route which can open up northeast India to China and beyond. Most importantly, it does not need any major new infrastructure because the road, already exists and, because of bare use, is in reasonably good shape.
It may be too early to dream of clearing an immigration counter and then driving into the most beautiful part of China. But the fact is that it is not impossible.
Unlike all other existing cross-border connections like Nathu La in Sikkim or Bum La in Tawang, Kibithu is not difficult to reach and the altitude is relatively quite low.
Most importantly, we do not need the Stilwell Road which is actually more of an emotional connect than an actual roadlink. The Stillwell Road is nothing but a dense jungle running for more than 400 km. There is no road and constructing a road will entail destruction of the pristine forest. Besides that, the road goes south towards Myanmar and then enters Yunnan province, crossing about 1700 km. On the other hand, the one I am talking about is just 300 km from Tinsukia and is actually ready.
"On the occasion of the third formal Border Personnel Meeting at Wacha along the traditional Rima-Tezu route, our border troops of Lohit Valley Sector invited their Chinese counterparts to Wacha, in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh, to further mutual trust and cooperation. The Chinese officers and soldiers, attired in ceremonial uniform, marched almost three km from Damai on the Chinese side to Wacha across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) to honour the invitation extended by the Indian counterparts," said Brigadier Manjeet Mehta.
Though the Chinese are quite secretive about their infrastructure, it is well known that they have very good all weather roads from Rima to the interiors of China, most of which are four lane. The route has been a traditional passage and till 1960, it was quite an active one.
If someday our government agrees with the Chinese government to open up the road, we will need just about a month to make the last few kilometers of the all-weather road along the Lohit river said Lohit Deputy Commissioner R K Sharma.
Sharma knows that both the districts of Lohit and Anjaw will benefit the most, once a trade route is established. He wears a beaming smile as he speaks of this prospect.
As Indo-China cooperation increases, despite the itches over Tibet and Arunachal Pradesh, the number and frequency of Border Personnel Meetings (BPMs) along the Indo-China border, stretching across thousands of kilometers, are steadily rising too, especially in the areas of Chushul, Nathu La, Bum La and now near Wacha. "These interactions between the Indian and Chinese armies started initially with Flag Meetings and 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 further cementing the bonds of mutual trust, confidence and friendship between the two countries," the Brigadier said.
The BPM near Wacha is being seen as an important step in taking Indo-Chinese relations to new heights. Wacha is located on the traditional age-old trade route between the two nations that runs along the Lohit. This route was used by local traders on both sides till as late as 1960. This BPM is a positive step towards affirming the mutual commitment of strengthening relations between the two nations.
The occasion was also utilised to facilitate social interaction amongst all ranks of the two armies. The Chinese delegation was treated to a lavish spread of traditional Indian delicacies. The event culminated with an exchange of gifts and a joint photo session between the delegation members. Finally, the delegates parted ways, re-affirming a commitment towards stronger bilateral ties.
In fact, the first formal Border Personnel meeting (BPM), along the traditional RimaTezu trade route, was held on November 2006, at Wacha in Kibithu sector on the Indian side of the Line of Actual Control. The second meeting was held on September 08, across the Line of Actual Control (LAC), on the Chinese side.
"In the old days, our grandparents used to tell us that there were two big towns on the two sides - Sadiya in India and Rima in China. After the 1962 War, this route was completely blocked and since then, there is no communication. But we are sure that we have some relatives across the border," said Meyer, an old village headman who lives on the border.
Perhaps somewhere down the line, India is not very comfortable to have China so easily accessible. But time will roll everything over.
More about Mrinal Talukdar
Mrinal Talukdar is a veteran of North East news world for more than 23 years. Worked in all format of news world ranging from newspaper, news agency and television, he is a popular television host besides being a writer, social entrepreneur, tea planter as well as publisher, librarian, historian and an internationally acclaimed documentary film maker. He lives in Guwahati with his wife and daughter. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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