In furtherance of the UPA government’s “Look East Policy”, four new Land Customs Stations (LCS) will come up in the Northeastern region at an estimated cost of Rs 200 crore for promoting trade with bordering countries including Myanmar, China and Bangladesh. The Akia port project (connecting Mizoram with Myanmar) has also been finalised and likely to be shortly announced.
The customs stations -- expected to be ready within 16 months -- will provide for facilities of customs and immigration clearances and banking. These trade points will come up at Moreh in Manipur, Dawki in Meghalaya, Sutarkandi in Assam and Agartala in Tripura.
Commerce Minister Jairam Ramesh feels the region’s emergence as a “gateway to SE Asia” can come about by tackling two tasks simultaneously: Reopening the ancient trade routes; and by promoting not “border trade”, but “trade at the borders” by permitting more items for trade (except those on the negative list).
He said his ministry had requested the Ministry of External Affairs to pursue proposals with South Asian countries and China for the opening up of more numbers of border trade points.
In Ramesh’s view the “Look East” policy needs a re-look, as it needs to incorporate the essential focus on infrastructure development. Analyst/Journalist Sanjoy Hazarika concurs, and adds that the “Look East” policy needs to match up with a “Look West” policy as well.
“Given the abysmal state of infrastructure facilities existing in the region, we have to be asking ourselves whether the SE Asian countries are actually interested in looking westwards to invest in Northeastern India?” Hazarika asked.
In a telephonic conversation from Guwahati, Hazarika said the “Look East” policy had thus far amounted to “mere bunch of announcements”, while adding that the critical need was for ensuring that the funds and announcements got translated into deliverable projects.
Strategic analyst Lt Col Anil Bhat (retd) feels the foremost need is to counter the challenge posed by hard core terrorists, criminal and ISI elements “who were lording over the show from Dhaka and other destinations”.
The ironical fact, he said, is that none of the Indian army’s operations in the Northeast have thus far been allowed to be completed. These ceasefires have brought more violence than peace, he added.
KPS Gill - who has served stints as DGP of Assam and Punjab - promotes a converse view by stating that the army’s presence in the Northeast in the last 17 years has worsened instead of having improved matters. “Gun is not the answer”, the former super cop said.