A demographic map of India reveals how the north-eastern cities have receded into a mini-league, while the concentrations of population elsewhere in India have enlarged and proliferated. The disorderly contexts ranging from historical events of the unfortunate partition to the approaching denouements of geopolitical crises has taken the region backwards. As per the census 2011, the North East Region (NER) accounts for a meager 45,588,381 or 3.77% of the population of India.
To bring this traditionally cut mass of land to be connected and brought to relevance; Government of India has proposed new infrastructural interventions in the NER region. Within this regard, the interim Union Budget disclosed by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in February 2019 has provided a major budgetary boost to the North East region with a 21 percent hike i.e. Rs 50169.39 crore, highest ever allocation with assured infrastructural developmental initiatives. This sub-region’s largest, top-performing and complementary economies have joined hands in order to augment connectivity overseas and within for an easier flow of trade and economy.
Holding volatile standards and high on natural resources, India’s North-Eastern states have lately been unusually turbulent as reflected in issues ranging from historical events of the unfortunate partition to the approaching denouements of geopolitical crises. As a result, the demographic map of India reveals how the north-eastern cities have receded into a mini-league, while the concentrations of population elsewhere in India have enlarged and proliferated.
As per the census 2011, the North East Region (NER) accounts for the total population of 45,588,381 that accounts for a meager of 3.77% of the population of India. Standing strong against any disorderly context, it is no small wonder that the people of this magnificent and glorified region have not only retained steady, but kept their positive trajectory intact by embracing new technology in all its originality. Indeed, following their quests to participate in governance and determine the allocation of public resources and services, the respective leaderships should be complimented for their sagacity. Demonstrating their strategic construct and maturity, they focus on leveraging their bilateral synergy i.e. combining the traditions with technology, instead of chasing the various wild geese.
Propelling the local initiatives and spirit of the people, Government of India has introduced great interventions to connect this traditionally cut mass of land close to the country and reviving its relevance globally.
Within this regard, the interim Union Budget disclosed by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in February 2019 has provided a major budgetary boost to the North East region. North East India has received a 21 percent hike in budgetary allocation with assured infrastructural developmental initiatives. NER got Rs 50169.39 crore, highest ever allocation.
This push for infrastructure can be broadly classified into governance infrastructure, institutional and health infrastructure, transport infrastructure and an accelerated rate of investment can be noted particularly in aviation infrastructure or airports, which are built on a hitherto unparalleled scale pan India. Another parallel paradigm supporting NER’s potential of being projected as the center for new infrastructural interventions is its proximity to the countries that form the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Apart from the connectivity, the long cultural history shared by India and Southeast Asia over the years has helped them shape their economic and commercial relations. This partnership gathered a stimulus en-suing the launch of India’s ‘Look East Policy’ in the early 1990s, rechristened ‘Act East’ in 2015.
As a result, of all the 8 states that form the NER, Guwahati geographically is the foremost city in Assam State or the ‘Gateway’ for India to the south-east Asian countries or precisely the ASEAN countries. Thereby and making the Look East Policy meaningful for the region by connecting it with Southeast Asian markets, these incidents led to the construction of the New Integrated Terminal Building (NITB) at Guwahati International Airport, which is a project under construction through a public-private partnership.
Hence, this entente cordiale has not only led India and ASEAN accomplish their bilateral prospective, but has broadened their individual geostrategic options enhancing trade and economy.
Recently, another feather was added in the cap shared by India and ASEAN when Prime Minister Narendra Modi confirmed the construction of the new emerging India – Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway while addressing the Indian Diaspora at ‘Swasdee PM Modi’ event at 16th ASEAN-India Summit held in Bangkok, Thailand on November 03, 2019.
Other then the ASEAN connect, India’s neighboring countries in the east are acknowledging her core interests and are helping India to accommodate them. Japan’s investment of an amount of Rs.13,000 Crore in states of India's North-Eastern region has facilitated some of the important projects such as Northeast Network Connectivity Improvement Project in Meghalaya.
Whereas in 2011, Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided loan assistance of up to US $ 200 million under Multi-tranche Financing Facility (MFF) for envisaging construction of 433.425 km long roads in 6 Northeastern States of Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Sikkim and Tripura under the scheme North Eastern State Roads Investment Programme (NESRIP).
The Airport Authorities of India (AAI) with its various brown-filed projects in India has also proposed the construction of a new integrated terminal building at Imphal and Agartala Airports as well as the Extension of Runway at Dibrugarh Airport. Apart from the government generated finances, last year in 2018, at Assam’s investment scouting exposition “Advantage Assam” also attracted series of investment proposals from companies like Reliance Group of Industries, Mahindra, Air Asia, and SpiceJet.
The arresting mountainous scenery, the brooks, rivers, and waterfalls nonchalantly melancholy, the humble tribal and the investments flowing!
When this sub-region’s largest, top-performing and complementary economies join hands; shouldn’t the sum be greater than the total of the parts? Hopes have risen for an emphatic affirmative answer.
Authored by – Anand Sharma (Founder Partner, Design Forum International)