Free American spirit disenchanted by RAP regime

Morung Express News
Dimapur | December 9

ANY UPTURN in American-Naga partnership may well depend on the RAP factor. Despite the low key official contact between the United States and Nagaland, US Consul General Henry V Jardine gave a positive impression of the State even going to the extent of saying that a ‘natural link’ exists between the two cultures and their way of life. A heady mix of local rice beer and listening to Led Zeppelin during one of the evenings of the Hornbill Rock Contest is just one instance of the ‘excitement and very American way of life’ experience for this middle-aged American diplomat.

Speaking to The Morung Express at Hotel Saramati, Dimapur before leaving for Kolkata, Jardine did not mince words when he expressed on what he perceived as ‘road blocks’ owing to the Restricted Area Permit regime currently in place for foreign nationals traveling to Nagaland. “As an outside observer, all I can say is that we don’t really need RAP. For the State it shuts you out with the outside world at a time when trade links and business opportunities have to be explored. Things get complicated with RAP”, the US Consul General says when queried on the subject. 

While saying that Nagaland State officials recognize this predicament, Jardine is well aware of the security theory behind the RAP regime. The US Consul General informs that the issue has been raised with the Government of India in the past but to no avail. 

Subject to the RAP factor, the US Consul General however wants official American relationship with Nagaland to become more visible. According to Jardine, some of the specific areas of interest include tie ups with Nagaland University and academic exchange programs. “We would like to do more on the academic field. But this is contingent again on RAP”.

Again depending on RAP, the US Consul General points out to the huge potential in the agriculture sector. Disclosing on the recently agreed upon US-India Agro Knowledge Initiative, the visiting diplomat points out that agriculture needs an infrastructure that enables farmers not only to grow the best crop, but also to get that harvest to market for a competitive price. Sharing his experience of Thailand where he had served earlier, Jardine says that Thai entrepreneurs have created world-class distribution and cold chain facilities. “The creation of viable marketing chains, reliable transportation, and cold chain facilities are critical for farmers”, he points out. 

Despite the infrastructure bottlenecks, Jardine in particular was impressed by the variety of agro and horticulture products showcased at the Hornbill Festival and along with tourism sees it as the comparative advantage on the Nagas. Besides wanting a more friendly travel regime, the US Consul General suggested more hotels, guest houses, better air connectivity in order to attract more tourists to experience the land and culture of the Nagas.

It may be mentioned that Jardine began his assignment as US Consul General in Kolkata on August 11, 2005.  Previously, he served as the Management Officer at the US Consulate General in Chiang Mai, Thailand.  Jardine joined the Foreign Service in 1995 and served as a Consular and Political Officer in Dhaka, Bangladesh and Bridgetown, Barbados.  Prior to his work with the State Department,  Jardine was an Infantry Captain in the United States Army.