Category Archives: Volume 16

INDIA’S ACT EAST POLICY WILL PROVIDE A STRONG LINK TO ASEAN

INDIA’S ACT EAST POlICY WIll PROVIDE A STRONG lINK TO ASEAN
ASEAN NATIONS FLAGS IN JAKARTA

India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Narendra Modi started laying emphasis on the development of India’s North Eastern region soon after he assumed office. Since then, the Government of India has taken several concrete steps to not only develop North East but also
to improve its connectivity with the rest of the country. This policy has been named ‘Act East’ Policy and it states that India’s North East region can serve as a potential link to ASEAN. This region shares a 1,640 km long land border with Myanmar and through Myanmar India is hoping to gain access to various other countries which lie further ahead. Prime Minister Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy got a big boost when Myanmar’s State Counselor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi came to India for a four day visit in October, 2016. During the meetings that took place during this visit, ample indications were given by both sides that they want to improve bilateral ties even further and establish a mutually beneficial
developmental relationship with each other. Mr. Modi has announced India’s commitment to invest US $ 1.75 billion in Myanmar. He has further stated that this investment will be
‘people centric’ which means that the main focus will be the welfare
of the people of Myanmar. With such statements coming out of the Prime Minister’s office and looking at all the infrastructure development projects that have been initiated in the North Eastern region, it is clear that the ‘Act East’ Policy holds a very important place in India’s new international strategy. By focusing on improving connectivity in the North East, India is showing its determined intentions to boost commerce, connectivity and cultural ties with ASEAN. However, in the long run India is eyeing an even more ambitions target. It is looking to extend the connection even
further south to countries such as South Korea, Australia, Japan, and
Mongolia.

INDIA’S PRIME MINISTER MR. NAREDRA MODI IS lAYING GREAT EMPHASIS ON THE ACT EAST POlICY
INDIA’S PRIME MINISTER MR. NAREDRA MODI IS LAYING GREAT EMPHASIS ON THE ACT EAST POLICY

India’s North East has a very rugged terrain which does pose some difficulties which are further enhanced by the fact that it is connected with mainland India only by the narrow 22 km Siliguri
corridor. This corridor is located in the state of West Bengal and
is called the ‘Chicken’s Neck’.

 However, if these difficulties are overcome by focusing on developing all possible means of transport such as roadways, railways, airways, and waterways then it can open a whole
new era of development for the region. This region shares a total of
over 5,400 km of borders with five neighbors, which besides Myanmar include Bangladesh, Bhutan, China and Nepal. These borders if properly tapped can give rise to huge trade possibilities and as a result the currently sluggish and almost stagnant economy of India’s North Eastern states can get a great chance to develop and flourish. Myanmar is the only ASEAN country that directly borders India and it does so in the North East region. So, the bridge from India to ASEAN and beyond just can’t be built without proper development of the North Eastern states. India understands this and has started working on various plans to make this dream a reality. Work on some of the transnational road and rail connectivity projects has already begun. India-Myanmar-Thailand
Trilateral Highway, a 1,360 km highway joining Moreh in Manipur
(India) to Mae Sot in Thailand through Bagan in Myanmar; Kaladan
Multi-Modal Transit Transport Facility, connecting Indian ports on
the eastern seaboard and Sittwe Port in Myanmar and then through
riverine transport and by road to Mizoram (India), thus providing
an alternate route for transport of goods to North East India; another rail link from Jiribam in Manipur to Hanoi in Vietnam passing through Myanmar, and revitalizing the Stilwell Road, linking Assam with China’s Yunnan province are some of the other important projects initiated by India. Good progress is being made without doubt but one of the things to keep in mind is that local governments and the people of North East are important stakeholders in these projects and Central Government should work
on properly engaging them so that they can take full advantage of these connectivity projects.

Ranjit Barthakur,
Founding Chairman,
Myanmar Matters