SURROUNDED by Bhutan to the west, China/Tibet to the north, Myanmar to the east, and the Indian state of Assam to the South, Arunachal Pradesh, is one of the most sparsely populated states of India and one of the world’s least-explored regions.
Being the easternmost state of India, Arunachal Pradesh is truly the place where the sun first rises. It is the largest of the northeastern states and much of it has hardly been explored or catalogued. Ethnic and linguistic diversity in the state may be the highest, not only in India, but perhaps in any comparablysized Asian region.
Although the British annexed the area in 1858, the exact boundary between Tibet and India remained undefined until 1914 when British and Tibetan authorities signed the Shimla agreement. The international border is also known as the McMahon Line, after Henry McMahon, a British administrator.
However, the McMahon Line has never been fully recognized as an international border by China. During the short 1962 war with India, China briefly occupied parts of Arunachal Pradesh but then unilaterally withdrew its armed forces beyond the Line.
China today claims Arunachal Pradesh as part of its territory, resulting in very close control over access to the region by the Indian Border Police Force.
The land is mountainous with Himalayan ranges along the northern borders, and other large mountain ranges running North-South. These ranges divide the state into five major river valleys with the Siang River being the largest contributor to the Tsangpo River, which takes the name Brahmaputra as it enters Assam. Arunachal Pradesh may also have the greatest biodiversity in India, with as many as 600 species of orchids and one third of the plants of India, along with the same proportion of mammals and over half of India’s 1,300 birds.
However here, just as in other parts of the Indian subcontinent, biodiversity is threatened by numerous factors, including development of infrastructure such as roads and hydroelectric dams, agricultural expansion into forest areas, and ineffectual resource governance.
All of this promotes a feeling of urgency to explore the region, one of the last remote parts of the world. With no airport and with a mandatory requirement for foreigners to have a special Protected Area Permit and to be continuously accompanied by a certified guide, a domestic airport in Assam is the easiest place in which to arrive, make arrangements, and travel on.