Eastward Bound

The dialogue ‘Going beyond the Look East Policy’ held yesterday at Kohima and the deliberation on the possibility of the North East emerging as a regional market and a single economic Zone is an important event and one that the Nagaland Government would have to take a serious long term approach in partnership with expert groups such as the New Delhi based Centre of North East Studies and Policy Research besides sustaining the very dialogue process with the ASEAN Dialogue Society. Engaging expert opinion is all the more needed in order to understand the wide ranging perspectives involved and to lay down the road map for deeper engagement with economies of South East Asian countries. 

All the seven States in the northeast would also have to put together a framework in achieving the desired economic goals. This call for greater cooperation in all forms and manifestations if at all a regional market is to emerge in the near future. Having said that, there is every possibility of such economic initiatives getting stalled as a result of political unrest or mistrust between States. To take the process of cooperation to a higher level, the first requirement would be a mandated forum for genuine regional cooperation which will lead to socio-economic and cultural upliftment of the people in the region. Therefore, cooperation among the NE States is a matter of necessity.

From Nagaland’s point of view it would be important to also realize that its neighbors are important factors in the preservation and development of its own interest. By virtue of their geographical proximity to Nagaland’s borders, they are strategically important to the State’s own security. Also paradoxically, because of cultural affinities across borders, it has also proved to be a source of friction sometimes, such as Nagaland’s uneasy ties with Assam and Manipur on the issue of unifying contiguous Naga inhabited areas. The State’s foremost task therefore would be to work out the best possible way in which it can maintain good neighborly relations.

The conflicts and differences makes it more imperative for the NE States to together work on less contentious but common agenda so that the economic opportunities is used in such a way as to promote the well being of people and improve standards of living in the region as a whole. Struggle against poverty, environmental challenges, women, children and girl child, terrorism and drug and human trafficking and pushing for economic growth through trade and investment both within and outside the NE region are some of the key issues that must be addressed upfront. 

The message of exhortation given by Surin Pitsuwan, former Foreign Minister of Thailand, telling Nagaland to go beyond the Look East Policy by creating a ‘ground and form relations with neighboring states and countries’ should be taken seriously by those who run the affairs of the State. While the latest deliberations may result in the formulation of concrete policies and action-plans to develop North East region as a regional market and feasible economic zone, the more important thing would be to keep the issue itself alive and take ground level measures to bring the ideas into reality.