TODAY -

Poor connectivity, policy failure and economic underdevelopment
- The Sangai Express Editorial :: September 03 2015 -



It has been reported that the Myawaddy-Thinggan Nyenaung-Kawkareik section of the Asian Highway linking India, Myanmar and Thailand has been put into service.

The Asian highway runs from Moreh to Thailand’s Maesot via Myanmar’s Tamu, Mandalay and Myawaddy.

The highway section which became operational since Sunday runs within the territory of Myanmar. Construction of the 25.6 Kms long highway section started in 2012 with the assistance of Thailand.

This was a significant step towards operationalising the highway which would link the three countries.

This would certainly bolster India’s Look East Policy (now Act East Policy) but the policy has achieved little progress on the field even though the same policy was conceptualized over two decades back.

India’s Look East Policy, in which Myanmar plays a key role as the route for major connectivity between India’s landlocked Northeast and Southeast Asia, needs to rise above “mere academic talk” to show “more concrete action”, experts said at a talk programme held at Institute of Social Sciences, Delhi on the topic ‘Look East Policy: India and Myanmar Pitching for Greater Connectivity” on August 4, 2014.

Rajiv K Bhatia, Director General of the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA) and former envoy to Myanmar, said mere “academic talk is no substitute for concrete action” in the development of the connectivity corridors.

Senior journalist and author BG Varghese said the government has “structurally not got its act together” on the connectivity projects that are meant to link the landlocked Northeast with the Southeast Asian region.

Many experts who took part in the talk programme rightly emphasised on taking into confidence all stakeholders as well as facilitation of their active involvement in transforming LEP into a vibrant, result oriented policy.

If Myanmar is a key partner of India’s Look East policy, the North East region in general and Manipur in particular are the pivots of the entire policy.

It sounds rather ironical that Manipur which is often dubbed as the gateway to South East Asia remains isolated from the whole country except for air connectivity.

It has been more than a week since Imphal-Dimapur highway was cut off.

Not long after, Barak Bridge, one of the key bridges which dot Imphal-Jiribam highway broke down and rendered the highway inaccessible from either direction.

Moreh-Imphal highway too is still not fit for heavy vehicles after several sections were badly damaged by landslides in the last week of July.

Given this poor connectivity Manipur has with the rest of the country and the world, the State’s economic underdevelopment is understandable and it is bound to stay here until and unless connectivity with the rest of the world improves dramatically.

Merits and demerits of a region’s location are relative terms which cannot be defined in any absolute parameters.

This debate revolving around geographical location, geopolitics and economic development or backwardness can be contextualized in the North East region and its surrounding countries.

Yes, the region is remote from all directions but in terms of distance, the region is comparatively quite near to Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar, Bhutan and even China and Thailand than most other main Indian cities with the exception of Kolkata.

So it is policy failures rather than geographical location which is responsible for the economic underdevelopment of the entire North East region and its remoteness.



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