INDIA’S NORTHEAST PITCHES FOR BCIM
A large majority of people in Northeast India feel that the BCIM economic corridor connecting India and China through Bangladesh and Myanmar will benefit the region’s economy and help it tackle an endemic insurgency problem by providing viable livelihoods.
This has been the finding of a survey conducted by the Guwahati-based Centre for Environment Social and Policy Research (CESPR).
The proposed corridor will cover 1.65 million square kilometres, encompassing an estimated 440 million people in China’s Yunnan Province, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India through a combination of road, water and air linkages in the region.
According to the CESPR finding, 86 percent of surveyed people said India should agree to open the BCIM highway starting from Kolkata and passing through Bangladesh and the north-eastern Indian states of Assam and Manipur.
The survey was conducted among 300 informed respondents drawn from political parties, bureaucracy, academia and media, covering all the seven states of the region – Assam, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh. The respondents expressed their views on a 15-question format.
According to the CESPR, the survey is significant in view of the uncertainties over the BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) process following India’s somewhat lukewarm reaction during Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent visit to India.
As many as 267, or 89 percent, of the respondents said the BCIM had the potential to benefit the economy of the Northeast.
According to 255 (85%) respondents, the BCIM was a useful multilateral process that could help India tackle its many problems with its immediate neighbours such as Bangladesh and Myanmar – problems that have defied a bilateral solution.
Significantly, an overwhelming majority 260 or 86.67 percent did not subscribe to the contention that China could misuse the BCIM corridor-highway, and 256 (85.33%) felt the BCIM corridor did not threaten India’s security.
Contrary to the perception that the corridor would be a security threat to India, 266 (88,67%) felt serious human security issues like weapons and drugs smuggling could be better addressed through a multilateral forum like the BCIM than at a bilateral level.
A total of 253 (84.33%) respondents felt the BCIM could generate a considerable amount of economic activities that could help control Northeast’s chronic insurgencies.
A good majority of 184 (61.33%) said it was possible to take up river water sharing issues in forums such as the BCIM.
And 254 (84.67%) said the BCIM highway should have a few alternative arteries like the Stillwell Road or the road through Kibhitu in Arunachal Pradesh.
According to 280 (93.33%) respondents, the US would feel apprehensive at such a grouping that involves India and China.
A sizeable majority also wanted the BCIM corridor to pass through their own state and that both manufacturing units and tourism packages should offered along it.