New Delhi: Previous governments had adopted a "defeatist" attitude by not constructing roads in Arunachal Pradesh and Ladakh as they felt Chinese forces could use them, Union Minister Kiren Rijiju said on Wednesday.
Speaking ad lib at a conference on 'Homeland Security, Smart Border Management' organised by Ficci in New Delhi, the Minister of State for Home Affairs claimed an "unwritten" policy of the governments of the past was not to develop border areas.
He cited a statement made by LK Advani during a visit to Arunachal Pradesh when he was the deputy prime minister that India was making a "huge blunder" by neglecting its borders.
"I am talking about pre-1998. Our deputy prime minister LK Advani came to Arunachal Pradesh. He made a very important statement at Itanagar. He said India has committed a 'huge blunder' by neglecting its border," Rijiju, who hails from the northeastern state, said.
"Because the policy (previously) was don't construct roads in Arunachal Pradesh. If you develop roads the Chinese will come and use them in the time of crisis. That means you are a defeatist, you have a defeatist mindset. In Ladakh, don't construct good roads along the border because they may use it. So to protect our territory leave it underdeveloped... What kind of policy we had in India. Terrible!" he said.
"So, when Advani ji came he said it is very, very regrettable that this was the policy of the country," Rijiju
said, adding people in border areas crave for development.
He mentioned that former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had initiated Pradhan Mantri Gramin Sadak Yojna in
far-flung areas of Arunachal Pradesh and quoted him as saying "it takes will power and not money to work for development".
Noting that border guarding is a challenging task, the minister said, "We have done a commendable job in managing our borders successfully. There were one or two incidents like Kargil but by and large we have managed our borders or at least made it look like we have successfully managed our borders. The government whoever is there."
Terming border management as most important subject, Rijiju said it has not been able to draw the required
attention of either the government or the people.
"I always feel that a country is as secure as its borders. And no matter how robust economic system we try to create within the country, if your border is not secured then you can understand what all robust arrangement we are talking about," he said.
The minister said it is not easy to secure 15,000 km of land and a coastal border of over 7,500 km.
He said the borders with Myanmar, Nepal and Bhutan allow free movement of people unlike those with Pakistan and
Bangladesh along which security needs to be strengthened further.
"We are trying to make the borders with Pakistan and Bangladesh completely fool-proof and fenced so that other than
those designated border posts, people cannot cross over at other places," he said.
Rijiju said despite best efforts, trafficking of humans and drugs is difficult to stop across these borders.
"I have tried to understand it over the past two years why we cannot stop it. In the home ministry we try to understand and I always insist that we have to stop it, the illegal infiltration," he said, adding "Our border guarding forces are trying their level best, still these incidents do not stop."
He called for setting up of a joint mechanism to deal with border issues.
"Pakistan has also to ensure that their people do not cross. If their military, agencies or organisations from the
other side, if they keep making attempts 24 hours, then they will be successful. So it has to be a joint mechanism.
"Having said that, we shouldn't be dependent on them. That 100 percent fool-proof security arrangement in the
border area will be only if we can make the other country realise that it is the necessity for both the countries to ensure that," he said.