TODAY -

Looking East, Lowering Veil of Fear
- Hueiyen Lanpao Editorial :: January 19, 2014 -



The recent news of the proposed Imphal-Mandalay bus service and the beginning of the field survey along the 579-km road by a joint team from India and Myanmar has been dubbed as good tidings for the proponents of India’s Look East Policy (LEP) and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s new mantra – Act East Policy (AEP).

The news has also been well received by the people of the Imphal Valley and the Manipuri Diaspora in Mandalay, Myanmar for they see the opportunity as a first step to recalling and reviving age-old relations strained by colonial and post colonial demarcation of territories.

While there is much to cheer about, the moves by the Governments of India and Myanmar can be critically examined as the debate over India’s LEP and the resultant benefit the people of the Northeast region could reap from India’s push eastward, is still not over.

Here, it is worth tracing how India embarked on its push eastward policy in the post 1962 India-China war period.

The country’s policies and conception of the region seemed to have been triggered by a perceived fear of a bigger power and the efforts to prevent lesser ‘adversaries’ from taking advantage of the region caught in turmoil for over half a century.

However, one should also note that there has been a process of lowering the veil of perceived fear in recent times by India while framing policies intended for the region.

This is evident from India’s recent engagement of building infrastructure all along the international border. The move is expected to not only help reinforce defence preparedness but also link the resource rich remote areas of the Northeast region.

In the post liberalization and globalization period, it is no longer a hidden fact that the region, which had always been left as the peripheral areas even by the British, has abundant natural resources, not easily accessible due to numerous reasons. Taking cognisance of this fact has made India lower its veil of the perceived fear.

Improving surface connectivity in a landlocked Northeast assumes significance in India’s post liberalization eastward push vis-ŕ-vis small neighbours - Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and the ever expanding economic powerhouse China.

The pre-liberalization conception of the region and implementation of certain policies pertaining to development had been hampered by the existence of armed opposition groups in the region. What was earlier considered a “hurdle” has now been converted into an advantage as witnessed by India’s willingness to chart new course while looking eastward.

In the period of effective implementation of LEP, it is imperative for the people of the region to understand the core logic of the policies, the exactness of the roles to be played in India’s eastward push.



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