Five ideas for a Developed North East by 2030 | K Yhome

One can only say that the people of North East are not the only ones carrying ‘geographical tags’ as people from other parts of the country have tags such as ‘South Indian’, ‘North Indian’, etc. However, the issue here is not about tags, but rather about the future of North East and it people. -Dr K. Yhome*

 

‘North East’ is a term often used to refer to the people of India’s North East region. An identity that gives a sense of pride when success stories emerge from the region. At the same time, a sense of enraging bursts when the identity becomes an easy target of violence and hatred. We also fume when the identity makes news for the wrong reasons. Whatever the term may be used, there is no denying that ‘North East’ as an
identity that resonates with a large section of people belonging to the region.
Some have however pointed out that ‘North East’ as an identity of people in the region may not stand the scrutiny of academic enquiry and in fact, does injustice to the many differences of the several ethnic and cultural identities of the region. One can only say that the people of North East are not the only ones carrying ‘geographical tags’ as people from other parts of the country have tags such as‘South Indian’, ‘North Indian’, etc. However, the issue here is not about tags, but rather about the future of North East and its people.

For far too long a few discourses have dominated the way of thinking of people of North East as well as others, outside. As we look into the future and learn new things, it is equally important that we learn to unlearn them. Below are five ideas that should shape our thinking and drive the development of the North East.

There is need to relook at the geography of North East.We have all grown up learning that the North East is a periphery and a frontier region far remote from political and economic centres. This notion of the North East is narrow in definition and framed at a time and context that does not represent the region’s current potentials and opportunities.

Two developments have been transforming the geographical value of North East region. First, the North East finds itself surrounded by several dynamic economies of Asia and places at the crossroads of South, South East and East-Asia. In fact, recognising this geographical advantage of North East there have been attempts
to see it as ‘India’s bridgehead to the East’ under the ‘Look East’ policy. This, however, brought little change to the traditional notion of North East owing to persistent policy paralysis in New Delhi. This has started to change

.
Second, a paradigm shift has marked the way nation-states interact. For many years, geopolitics largely drives nations’ external engagements through their frontier regions. This has changed.One of the key drivers of contemporary cross-border interactions is geo-economics. Seeing from this perspective, the North East is at
the heart of several geo-economic interests and initiatives in the evolving regional dynamics.Therefore, the North East is no longer a periphery rather the periphery is now the centre. This idea should drive our thinking.

Image: Representation of North East as a window to South East Asia | Image: Insight Assam

In the past, policies and initiatives originating from Delhi were viewed as the imposition and with a degree of suspicion. The reasons of such suspicion emanated from lack of coordination and trust between Delhi and the North East. A good example is the Look-East policy itself. When it was first conceptualized, the North East did not figure in the policy. This resulted in voices from the North East calling for the need to “Look-East through the North East”. Moreover, as Delhi’s eastward drive gathered momentum, the significance of the North East in the policy played out itself. Lack of coordination meant that there were little support and participation of the
North East with adverse impact on policy initiatives.

In recent years, there are attempts from Delhi to involve the North East in cross-border initiatives. As new policy initiatives emerge, the North East needs to learn to take ownership. By owning policy initiatives and projects, the North East could shape them to its advantage and ensure successful implementation.
One good thing about the North East people is that they are supportive of each other when out of the region. However, in the North East, they tend to see things through the narrow self-interests and are divided along lines – ‘my state versus your state’, ‘my ethnic group versus your group’, and such bias. There is need to unite
and work together.

While some level of healthy competition is desirable, we tend to compete on issues that only result in spreading negativity. Such attitudes will not take anyone anywhere. Inculcating the habit of working together for mutual benefits among the North Eastern states as well as between New Delhi and the region is critical.
One of the dominant discourses on the North East revolves around issues concerning ethnic conflicts, lack of infrastructure, limited state capacities, etc. While these issues need an urgent remedy, such discourse captures only a few realities of the region. There is need to create a new narrative. A good place to start would be to
focus on our strengths rather than our weaknesses.

There are several realities and it is up to us which one we want to bring up in the observation. In Delhi, people often ask–Is it safe to go to the North East? Why should there be a silly question like this when millions are going and doing their daily works without any obstruction. If we tell an investor that we have security problems, power shortages and bad roads, no investor will ever come to invest. The North East is
trapped in a vicious circle, that is––there is no development in the North East because of political instability and because of instability, there cannot be any development. Somewhere, at some point, this cycle needs to break because neither the North East nor Delhi can develop without each other.

Lastly, the idea that the North East needs today is to be the change. Mahatma Gandhi famously said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” If t people from NE want to bring development to the region, there is no force in the world that can stop that aspiration. For that, we need to change. We need to
think differently, we need to relearn a few things, we need to take ownership and we need to work together.

After all, NE knows the best what kind of development they want for themselves.

 

 

*Dr K. Yhome is a Senior Fellow with the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation. He can be reached at khriezo@gmail.com

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Kootneeti Team

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This report has been written by The Kootneeti Team. For any feedbacks/query reach Editor@thekootneeti.com || Twitter: @TheKootneeti

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