External Dimensions of Security of the Northeast Region

External Dimensions of Security of the Northeast Region

Organized by

Indian Council of World Affairs

in collaboration with Asian Confluence, Shillong

October 10-11, 2019

Sapru House, New Delhi

 

India’s North Eastern region [NER] is a strategically important part of Eastern South Asia. Sharing borders with as many as five countries, and connected by a mere twelve kilometer corridor with the rest of India, security has been the primary consideration that has driven the entire narrative of the region since 1947. This was further compounded by the presence of several insurgent outfits in the region where they enjoyed safe havens across borders resulting in the borders of the region becoming over securitized and consequently underdeveloped. Insurgency is also used as a cover for a range of illicit activities ranging from forced rent seeking, arms trade, and drug trafficking all contributing to underdevelopment. Since the formulation of the Government’s ‘Look East’ and later rechristened ‘Act East’ Policy, there has been a gradual shift in the security paradigm of the region.  Past security considerations are now being recalibrated to, ‘engage with neighbors’ – a paradigm that considers leveraging foreign policy as a vital tool towards domestic security and development.  

The concept of borders as thick security lines dividing nation states is inter-mingling with the idea of border being zones of mutual development ensuring flow of goods and people. Several Integrated Check Posts have been planned along the Indo-Bangladesh and Indo-Myanmar Borders. Maritime security in the Bay of Bengal is another important factor that can usher in an era of prosperity for the NER and its Himalayan neighbors and help transform the landlocked region into a water linked region connecting ports in Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the rest of India with a mesh of inland waterways, roadways, and railways. 

The intense feeling of insecurity witnessed in the 1960s has diminished to some extent after the fall of East Pakistan. However, several vexing issues remain: the unresolved Sino-India border dispute along with an assertive China has increased security concerns which have held up the development of the NER. Other issues such as illegal migration from Bangladesh, and the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar, have also heightened perceptions of security deficit in the region. These perceptions of security deficit act as an obstacle to ensuring positive outcomes while engaging with the neighbors.             

The two day conference will bring in a cross disciplinary set of experts spanning security policy makers, development experts, foreign policy makers, think-tanks, civil society, and media. The intent is to share and ideate on means of how academia and civil society can contribute through deliberations that aid policy makers. It would also seek to create and advocate narratives that align existing intra-regional and inter-regional security considerations to regional cooperation with neighbors, as an opportunity for the NER’s overall development.