Economic Confidence Building in Northeast India

Economic Confidence Building in Northeast India

Northeast India which comprises seven sisters and Himalayan state of Sikkim is undoubtedly important from the geo-strategic perspective. The region shares 98% of its boundaries with other countries and occupies vital position in country’s defence architecture. It has been witnessing various kinds of militancy and conflicts since 1947, ranging from demand for separate ‘statehood’ to assertion of smaller tribal groups against political and cultural hegemony of certain others, movements for sub-regional aspirations. Insurgency in the Northeast, is the product of multiple factors and such movements have come to greatly challenge national security. The root cause of such situations is found in the field of socio- economic and political realm.

While northeast India is one of the country’s most economically backward regions, in terms of the availability of natural resources and their potentials no other part of the country can challenge it. In Political Economy of Underdevelopment of North-East India, Rafiul Ahmed & Prasenjit Biswas offered that the development in the region began with the region’s initial absorption into the world economy as a marginal periphery, a part of frontier of the British rule and which eventually led to the region’s peripheral position within the Indian nation-state after independence. Economic underdevelopment was one of the core factors of genesis of separatist insurgency in the northeast India and also fuelled its further expansions.

The origin of the underdevelopment in the region dates back to the British period when the growth of the modem sectors of tea, oil and plywood took place. However, such growth could not bring about a high standard of living to the people of this region as localities hardly got any opportunity to participate in the economic activities. Investments came from outside and labour supply was also met from the external market. The region that had hitherto been underdeveloped remained as it was and could not be benefited from the capitalist path of British industrialization. The redrawing of the country’s boundary after independence made the region land -locked with shaky connection with the mainland India through the 22-kilometer long “chicken neck,” and the region had lost its access to roadways, railways and waterways existed in the pre-independence period through East Bengal. Such redrawing of the political boundary brought adverse consequences for the economy of northeast India by making it isolated.