Project Details

Regional Alumni Conference: Promoting an Open, Stable, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific

Connectivity and Trade

  • Start Date : 20/05/19
  • End Date : 30/06/20

Focus Area : Culture/Connectivity

Project Staus : Ongoing

Publication : Outcome Report: Mekong-Brahmaputra Conversation

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3.1. Overview: 

The goal is to bring together US State Department exchange alumni from East India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Burma to forge and enhance links towards a secure, stable and prosperous region.

3.2. Background and Context:

India’s North Eastern states, and her immediate four eastern neighbours, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma 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 and improved regional connectivity. India’s “Act East” policy is one such example, as is BIMSTEC, or the Asian Development Bank’s SASEC program. This has had a positive effect for the region. As a result, many connectivity corridors, once active, are now being restored and new ones are being proposed and built.

While the present efforts and its outcomes are welcome, the region needs to grapple with a long history of disconnect, which has made the region “psychologically divided” with mistrust and lack of cross-border collaborations posing as a substantial hurdle to any kind of integration. The larger vision of connectedness and its benefit have not found roots in the hearts and minds of people across the borders. Given the emerging geopolitics in and the immediate neighbourhood of the region, it is imperative that the countries of this region take more concrete initiatives and dialogues towards better cooperation and integration. One of the most crucial component of that is people-to-people connect, which can be the bridge for larger commercial and strategic connect. While governments and businesses are making efforts to this end, beyond these two spaces, the “third space”, comprising of individual stakeholders, civil society, media and such other agencies, has a critical role is critical in forging an environment, conducive to growth, stability and peace, Given their relatively neutral stance and focus on Wider Economic Benefits (WEBs) covering a wider spectrum of stakeholders, the “Third Space” of people can play the role of “matchmakers” and “primary level incubators” with particular focus on facilitating trans-boundary movement of ideas, skills and peoples across the borders and fostering mutually benefitting collaborations. The Asian Confluence as an institution aims to empower the “Third Space” and build trust, partnerships and collaborations to lead to greater regional integration and thereby, greater prosperity and stability.

With this backdrop, the project aimed at bringing together US State Department Alumni members from East India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Burma to forge and enhance links towards a secure, stable and prosperous region is perfectly aligned with the organisation’s mandate and vision. It is also perfectly poised to contribute to the palpable need in the region to forge better cross-border partnerships, particularly given  that it aims to create a shared space, network and linkage between experts and leaders from the region, towards future collaborations that will further the cause of prosperity and stability of the region.

3.3. Objectives:

The overall objective is to leverage and connect US State Department alumni from East India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Burma to create a multi-disciplinary and multi-country platform for exchange, networking and enhancing of leadership skills. The initiative, which will culminate with a one-and-half-day conference in Kolkata and two focused alumni-led follow-up interventions, is envisaged to enable future collaborations among US State Department alumni to further entrepreneurship, gender inclusion and sustainability in the region.

The initiative will aim to:

·       Bring together alumni to leverage their knowledge, expertise and networks to come up with ideas and projects for regional collaborations

·       Facilitate dialogues and collaborations among alumni to promote a secure, stable and prosperous region

·       Create and nurture a shared space and an active network of State Department exchange alumni in the Indo-Pacific with enhanced understanding of U.S. policies and prioriti