Not just the Gateway
Dr I Yaipharemba
Manipur will be the centre stage of the India’s ambitious Act East Policy (AEP) in the form of physical corridor. The Trans Asian Highway intended to run from Moreh -Tamu (Myanmar) to Mandalay in Myanmar beside many other projects. The Policy is going to help the Natural Economic Zone (NEZ) i.e. the Northeast region by opening its corridor with the Southeast region. But such policy will yield “mixed results” for the Northeast NEZ also. It might benefit traders, industrialists and highly qualified professionals, but there is apprehension that it will meet the expectations in the field of employment generation for the large qualified youth of Northeast. India’s Look East Policy gathers greater momentum when its upgraded version ‘Act East Policy’ was unveiled during the India-ASEAN Summit in Myanmar in November 2014. It was Hillary Clinton, the then US Secretary of State, during her visit to India in 2011 said that India should not merely ‘’look’’ towards the East, but more importantly, ‘’act’’ and ‘’engage’’ with the East. Thus, very likely the process of actively engaging toward the Southeast region might germinate in Indian minds.
If Manipur is to be physically designated as the launch pad, the Government of Manipur must make sure the state should not only be the gateway to Southeast region, rather, be the point of convergence where trade facilitation between India with Southeast nations will be possible. Steps should be planned so as in addition to building road infrastructure and check posts much needed employment is generated benefitting the common people in the form of border trade. The highway project, which runs from Moreh in Manipur to Mae Sot in Thailand via Mandalay in Myanmar, will ensure that north’s eastern states is opened to a new bus route from Imphal to Mandalay, enabling bus travelling from Imphal to reach Mandalay in 14 hours in addition to the purpose air connectivity. Air connectivity between the North eastern states and South East Asia is an area in need of urgent policy action, rather than some special flight during state festivals between Manipur and Myanmar. Better road connectivity between Manipur – Myanmar and Thailand need not lead to improved trade and economic development, trade and business that are not connected or concerned for the lives and to the everyday needs of the common people may prove to be counterproductive and unpromising.
Not just the Gateway