Vibrant Village Scheme and China’s Land Boundary Laws


A month after the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) Land Boundary Law came into effect on January 01, 2022, India launched the Vibrant Village Scheme.

The PRC Land Boundary Law had come into prominence after several border villages were discovered on China’s borders with India and Bhutan recently and had received public attention.

A comparison of the Land Boundary Law and the Vibrant Village Scheme is attempted herein though the scale and objective of the two are at a different level.

Vibrant Village Scheme

During her Budget Speech in the parliament on February 01, India’s Finance Minister Ms Nirmala Sitharaman outlined the contours of the Scheme which is an extension of the existing Border Area Development Programme but mainly focused on the Northern borders with China.

While the details of the Vibrant Village Scheme have ye to emerge excerpts from the speech of Ms Sitharaman indicate that the aim of the scheme is to strengthen the infrastructure on the borders [including defence] and provide economic opportunities to the locals with a view to facilitate their sustainment and avoid looking for jobs outside.

“Border villages with sparse population, limited connectivity and infrastructure often get left out from the development gains. Such villages on the northern border will be covered under the new Vibrant Villages Programme,” Sitharaman said in her Budget speech.

“The activities will include construction of village infrastructure, housing, tourist centres, road connectivity, provisioning of decentralised renewable energy, direct to home access for Doordarshan and educational channels, and support for livelihood generation," she added. Additional funding will be provided for these activities. "Existing schemes will be converged. We will define their outcomes and constantly monitor them."

The finance minister was possibly referring to the Border Area Development Programme (BADP). On 11 March 2020, the Ministry of Home Affairs, Department of Border Management has issued revised guidelines for the Border Area Development Programme (BADP): Guidelines (2020)

A per the MHA main objective of the BADP is to meet the special developmental needs and well-being of the people living in remote and inaccessible areas situated near the International Boundary (IB) and to provide the border areas with essential infrastructure by convergence of BADS/other Central/State/UT/Local Schemes and through a participatory approach especially in six thematic areas - Basic Infrastructure, Health Infrastructure, Education, Agriculture & Water Resources, Financial Inclusion and Skill Development.

The allocation of these funds is for projects for Projects for developing infrastructure in strategically important villages/towns (as identified by Border Guarding Forces).

Much on the same lines the Vibrant Villages programme is likely to be designed to focus on the Northern Borders.

In addition to the allocations for the Vibrant Villages Programme the budget for the Border Roads Organisation has also been increased.

“In the 75th Year of India’s Independence, with sustained focus on infrastructure development the Government of India in its Union Budget for FY 2022-23 has increased the capital outlay for the Border Roads Organisation (BRO), by a record 40 percent, to ₹3,500 crore as compared to ₹2,500 crore in FY 2021-22,” the government said in a statement.

“Migration from border villages not good for national security, and budget has provisions to develop vibrant villages on the border,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi had said on February 2, underlining the new programme’s importance as per Hindustan Times.

As per India Today, home ministry's allocation for border management has increased by nearly 43 per cent, from Rs 1921.39 crore to Rs 2517.02 crore. The increase is expected to be for the Vibrant Villages programme.

Comparison to China’s Land Border Laws

China promulgated the Land Border Laws on October 23 last year which have come into effect on January 01.

The Land Border Laws of the PRC are far more expansive and covers all aspects of border management including ensuring sovereignty while outlining the role and tasks of each department such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

The aim of the Law is, “to regulate and strengthen the work on land borders, ensure the security and stability of land borders and borders, promote good-neighbourly friendship and exchanges and cooperation between China and its land neighbours, and safeguard national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity”.

The Land Border Law also includes “delimitation and determination of the land borders of the People's Republic of China, the defence, management and construction of land borders and borders, and the international cooperation on land border affairs,” as per Article 2. Thus a number of articles are related to this facet of border in the nature of defence.

On economic sustenance of the borders, as per Article 10 of the Border Law, “state shall take effective measures to strengthen frontier defense construction, support frontier economic and social development and opening to the outside world, promote the action of strengthening frontiers, revitalizing frontiers and enriching people, improving frontier public services and infrastructure construction, improving frontier production and living conditions, encouraging and supporting frontier residents in Frontier production and life, and promote the coordinated development of frontier defence construction and frontier economy and society”.

Publicity and education are also included in Article 11 while Article 43 very specifically states that the, “state supports the construction of border towns, improves the border town system, improves the functions of border towns, and strengthens the building of supporting capacity”.

Conclusion

While the Land Boundary Laws of China include management of territorial sovereignty the Vibrant Village concept is restricted in development of the border areas and providing improvement in livelihood to prevent migration. While security appears to be inherent in the concept there is no specific mention of the same as indicated in the Chinese border laws. The Land Boundary Laws on the other hand also appear to aim at pressing claims on the Line of Actual Control (LAC).

US Department of Defence, in the Annual Report of, “"Military and Security Developments involving the People's Republic of China [PRC]” had indicated that China has taken “incremental and tactical actions to press its claims at the LAC' amid the ongoing diplomatic and military dialogues to reduce border tensions."

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