Can India develop the Northeast without the help of Bangladesh?

IR : Can-India-develop-the-Northeast-without-the-help-of-BangladesH

Answer by Balaji Viswanathan:

It can, but will be hard. India needs the help of either Myanmar or Bangladesh [preferably both] to fully tap the region's potential.

1. Ports – The nearest port for the Northeast is Kolkata. Kolkata is 1500 km from Aizawl and Agartala. Not just the distance, the route passes through multiple states and through a lot of mountains. Imagine dragging a heavy machinery through this long, narrow road. This makes trade and manufacturing very hard in the Northeast. Every product that is either produced in Northeast or needed in northeast has to be carried through that one road through Siliguri. On the other hand, Chittagong port is only 200km from Tripura and passes through the mostly flat land. A major Bangladeshi railway junction Akhaura is just 10 km from Agartala.

2.  Migration – Major cities in India's northeast are quite close to the rural hinterland of Bangladesh. For many rural Banglas, it is easy to find jobs in these cities than in Dhaka or Chittagong. Thus, there is a massive migration that is rapidly impacting the demographics of the Northeast. Many tribes feel marginalized in their own territory. India needs Bangladeshi government's help to arrest the endless flow of migrants.

3. Separatism – Tripura alone shares 850km of border with Bangladesh. Other states like Mizoram share long borders too [a total of 4000+ km of shared borders between Northeast India and Bangladesh]. Given the long and unpatrolled borders, the separatists and troublemakers in this region easily escape to Bangladesh. It is hard to fight the separatism as long as the separatists have such an easy escape hatch. India needs Bangladesh's help in patrolling the borders and also bring the fugitives to justice.

4. Food movement – Eastern side of Bangladesh is quite fertile and produces a lot of rice. This can be easily be moved to Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur rather than dragging the food from West Bengal through the Siliguri corridor or air lifting them. Bangladesh PM proposed to supply rice to northeast India: Tripura minister

5. Plains and hills – Tripura, West Bengal and Bangladesh are all plains, while the routes between Tripura and WestBengal through Meghalaya are major hills. The terrain map will give a better view of this.

6. Risk of Chicken neck – Currently the Siliguri corridor remains the only link between the Northeast and the rest of India. Any problem there – terrorist attacks, natural disasters, etc. – would completely screw the 7 states of North east. Bangaldesh help would reduce that risk substantially.  Geography's Curse: India's Vulnerable 'Chicken's Neck'

Why a deal with Bangladesh would help?

  1. It will enable the easy movement of people and goods to Northeast from the rest of the world. Imagine cutting through Bangladesh to reach Tripura or Mizoram at lightning speed.
  2. It will generate a lot of employment through new industries in the northeast. The region will get prosperous.
  3. A prosperous region would have little reasons to fight for separatism. India's national security would improve.
  4. Bangladesh would get prosperous too with this trade and many of their locals would have a lesser need to jump across to India. That would reduce migration & again improve India's security.

What kind of deals India is looking at?

  1. A train link to Akhaura. The distance between Akhaura [in Bangladesh] and Agartala [Tripura's capital] is just 10 km. Linking them with a new line to enable deep links between the two railway systems.
  2. Improving the 70 km road between Tripura's town of Sabroom and the Chittagong port. Chittagong is a major international port and this road can enable movement of goods in 1 hour. Indo-Bangladesh border trade comes as boon for land-locked Tripura
  3. Bus between Agartala and Kolkata through Bangladesh. This could cut the travel time from about 40 hours to about 4 hours.

I have traveled around Bangladesh and have plenty of Bangla friends. They look like us; think like us. Why not they trade with us even more? It will greatly help South Asia.

With Myanmar/Burma

The same points for Bangladesh also apply here. India has a had a long relationship with Burma. In fact, my maternal grandfather and his father spent time there as traders. There are even many Tamil temples in Burma. Besides, it is deeply connected with Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Arunachal. Major cities like Impal and Kohima are less than 30 minutes away from the Burma border.

A Tamil temple in Rangoon (Yangon)

Delhi takes first step for great leap to Myanmar after 50 years of disconnect

What India is doing with Myanmar?

  1. Build plenty of new roads to reach Southeast Asia – Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia, etc.
  2. Provide a way for the people of restive Manipur and Nagaland to new economic avenues. Manipur especially has a lot to benefit as it currently depends too much on the road through Nagaland through which all its supplies from rest of India come.
  3. Pull Myanmar little out of China's reach. India and Myanmar share much more cultural aspects.
  4. Increase trade and that will also make Myanmar prosperous. A prosperous neighbor is always a good thing.

Can India develop the Northeast without the help of  Bangladesh?


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