Centering the Northeast

Ques. Critically analyse the key areas that needs to be emphasised to take the north-eastern states out of its insurgency grip, mobilise leaders of substance and work out a decentralised multi-level development strategy aimed at fostering the region’s growth.

The Northeast region of India comprising of eight states – Assam, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Tripura and Sikkim– a region poorly connected to the Indian mainland by a small corridor, and surrounded by many countries such as Bhutan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and China, is the setting for a multitude of conflict that undermines the idea of India as a prosperous and functioning democracy.

Key areas:

  • North-eastern states share 98% borders with other countries and only 2% with India. Therefore, this location disadvantage has to be converted into opportunity by opening up the seven-State gateway to more than millions of ASEAN consumers for trade, commerce and education.
  • The Northeast requires proactive, bold policies that must understand the changing lives of the tribals who have adopted modern values, fashions and modes of living, and frame policies accordingly.
  • Removing the Restricted Area Permit and Inner Line Permit would help to integrate the region with the rest of India.
  • A healthy economy, innovative tourism-oriented packaging of rich tribal heritage, and projecting modern facets of society are the keys to solving the problems of tribal communities as well as preserving the distinct identity of north-eastern people.
  • The region needs special efforts for the development of world-class infrastructural network of roads and railways, for strengthening the telecom sector, healthcare services, and tapping into the agricultural industry and the region’s rich biodiversity. It can also emerge as a hub for higher education for the entire Southeast Asian belt.

The Northeast has higher standards of living and literacy, but it also has an unbalanced economy and suffers from a terrible industrial sickness. We need to examine ways and means of creating a unified common market of nearly 40 million people which will provide a big boost to the economy of the region. We also have to ensure a massive investment flow for infrastructural development on both sides of the border in order to improve connectivity for trade and commerce. This will help the emergence of local entrepreneurs.

There is a need to redefine the ‘Look East Policy’ to resolve outstanding issues of trade, transit and investment with countries neighbouring the region. It also involves promoting Indian investment infrastructure in partner countries, especially Myanmar, particularly in respect of ports such as Sittwe and international highways to connect the Northeast Region with ASEAN.

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