Geopolitics and Connectivity in the Bay of Bengal: Perspectives from the North East

Date:   Mon Sep 02, 2019 - Mon Sep 02, 2019 , Contact:   prithviraj.nath@asianconfluence.org
Location:   Asian Confluence Center, Shillong , Hosts:   Asian Confluence

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The North East region of India is a unique geographical region connecting South and South East Asia. India’s North Eastern states, and her immediate four eastern neighbours, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar and Nepal, together comprise a sub-region that is a geographically, economically, historically and culturally connected. History bears testimony to the fact that before the partition of the region, goods, peoples, ideas and skills have travelled within the region seamlessly. Such flows have enriched the region as a confluence of commerce, cultures and peoples.

However, in the more recent times, the region has gained the rather unwelcome tag of the least integrated region in terms of economic coordination and physical connectivity, and with time, the flow of people and ideas have also gradually tapered off. More recently, governments and multilateral agencies have pushed for integration an improved regional connectivity. India’s “Act East” policy is one such example, as is BIMSTEC, or the Asian Development Bank’s SASEC program. A more recent addition to this is the Asia-Africa Growth Corridor and the extremely ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) by China. As a result, many connectivity corridors, once active, are now being restored and new ones are being proposed and built.

With so many upcoming and planed infrastructure initiatives and economic corridors criss-crossing it, the region has assumed a strategic importance that had so far eluded it. These developments in the neighbourhood have, in many ways, shifted the geopolitical narrative in the region. What with China’s BRI, Japan’s Free and Open Indo Pacific, the coming together of USA, Japan, Australia and India for the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or the “Quad”, USA’s recent emphasis on its Indo-Pacific Strategy, the strategic and geopolitical theatre around the Indian Ocean is seeing some really intense episodes. Given India’s importance in all of these and also North East India’s unique geographical location, the region is at the epicentre of all of these strategic and geopolitical dialogues.  

Given this backdrop, this closed door interactive roundtable will deliberate on various pertinent issues including those on connectivity and regional cooperation and the geopolitics surrounding it with emphasis on the role of North East in that discourse.



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