TODAY -

Opening NE to outside world: Challenges, prospects and inevitability
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: October 14 2019 -



Though quite late, the North East region is being slowly opened to the outside world.

Hitherto, the landlocked North East region had little connectivity with the outside world.

Ironically, the region shares international boundaries with as many as five countries namely; China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal.

But the region has little contact with these countries.

No doubt, Tripura is connected to Bangladesh, Manipur, Nagaland and Mizoram to Myanmar, and also Sikkim to Nepal and Bhutan but this connectivity as well as people to people contact are limited.

For instance, Manipur-Myanmar connectivity is limited to the border towns of Moreh and Tamu.

On the western front, all trade and commercial activities of the region are done with mainland India through a chicken neck called Silliguri Corridor which is just about 22 Kms wide.

Whereas the region is closed to neighbouring countries, all its trade and commercial activities depend on mainland India through the narrow Silliguri Corridor.

This is indeed a tragedy for the region.

A significant stride was made on September 22, 2019 towards regional connectivity with the launch of direct flight service between Guwahati and Bangkok.

We are hopeful this air connectivity would herald a new era of regional cooperation and give a new dimension to the region’s trade and commercial activities.

Another positive step towards enhancing regional connectivity is KBZ Airlines’ plan to operate flight service between Imphal and Mandalay.

However, we are not certain whether it is a long term plan or a temporary arrangement done in view of the Manipur Sangai Festival.

Some years back, Golden Myanmar operated flight service between Imphal and Mandalay during a few editions of the Manipur Sangai Festival.

Golden Myanmar ceased its operation on the particular route soon after the festival was over.

If KBZ Airlines is walking in the same footsteps of Golden Myanmar, then there is nothing to rejoice about.

Undoubtedly, air connectivity has its own merits but land connectivity is also crucial.

A few years back, everybody was talking about Imphal-Mandalay bus service but the much hyped bus service is yet to see the light of day.

Some years back, we heard that field survey had been conducted for the Imphal-Mandalay bus route but nobody has any idea regarding what has happened to the survey.

Much to our dismay, it appears very little have changed on ground whether it is Look East Policy or the Act East Policy.

If Myanmar was the most reclusive Nation in the planet till the turn of the last decade, the entire North East India still remains landlocked, backward and isolated from all directions.

A landlocked State like Manipur needs not just one or two highway(s) but at least half a dozen which would connect the State with the outside world in different directions.

Today, highways are road to survival. In future, they can be roads to prosperity.

This is all the more undeniable in the absence of access to sea routes or maritime trade.

Improving highway networks is not necessarily in the interest of the region alone.

The much talked about Act East Policy would never fructify without standard surface transport infrastructure in the region, even though direct flight service has been launched between Guwahati and Bangkok.

Once the Trans-Asian Highway which passes directly through the North East region becomes operational, Manipur and the entire North East region would be bombarded by global finance capital from all directions.

In this age driven by information technology, Manipur cannot afford isolation.

Sure enough, the Trans-Asian Highway would open a thousand opportunities.

But the moot question is, are we prepared to exploit these opportunities.

Along with the opportunities, the international highway would unleash several formidable challenges upon the State of Manipur.

If globalization is inevitable, we must adapt and thrive.

So the new catchword is, either you adapt or perish.



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