The applicable to Southwest China and for Northeast

The Initiative intended to address the
structural hindrance to the development of the region. It aimed at making
borders irrelevant, increasing connectivity, and facilitating eco­nomic
development on the principle of common economic require­ment. The broad logic
of the initiative was to create conditions for the overall development of the
region by providing the region access to sea, applicable to Southwest China and
for Northeast India, and to provide opportunities to Bangladesh and Myanmar to
gain from their engagement with bigger economies like India and China.10

As, mentioned in the previous chapter, the
proposed 2,800-km long EC will traverse from Kolkata via Benapole/Petrapole on
the India Bangladesh border to Dhaka and Sylhet before again entering India
near Silchar in Assam. After coursing through Imphal, it moves to Myanmar.
After crossing Mandalay and Lashio the road will reach Kunming. Hence it is
very clear that the proposed corridor touches north-eastern India mainly at two
distinct points: Silchar and Imphal. Now, let’s see these two points.

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·       Silchar is the headquarters
of Cachar district in the state
of Assam. It is 343 kilometres south east of Guwahati. It is the second largest city of the state in terms of
population and municipal area.11

·       Imphal is the capital city of Manipur.

On a broader aspect, two states namely Assam and Manipur are involved in
the EC. The Economy of Assam is largely agriculture based with 69% of the population
engaged in it and the economy of Manipur is also primarily agriculture,
forestry, cottage and trade driven. Manipur acts as India’s gateway
to the East, through Moreh and Tamu towns, the
land route for trade between India and Myanmar and other Southeast Asian
countries. Manipur has the highest number of handicrafts units and the highest
number of craftspersons in the northeastern region of India.

Diagram: 6- Population and area of Assam and Manipur

Fig. Source: population census 2011

As seen in the above picture, Assam is the second
largest of the 8 states and has the maximum population amongst them and Manipur
is the fourth largest amongst the 8 states and has the third highest population
in NER.

The religious scenario of the NER is that it has:

·       54.02% Hinduism –saffron in
the pie diagram below.

·       25.05% Islam- green part in
the pie diagram below.

·       17.24% Christianity-blue in
the pie diagram below.

·       01.37% Buddhism- yellow in
the pie diagram below.

·       0.07% Jainism- grey in the
pie diagram below.

·       0.07% Sikhism- purple in the
pie diagram below.

·       01.97% Others- pink in the
pie diagram below.

·       0.19% Not Stated- turquoise
blue in the pie diagram below.

.

Fig. Source- census report 2011

The above mentioned diversities of the NER is one of
the many reasons, that India is seen less enthusiastic towards the BCIM EC. Northeast is extremely volatile with a web of
issues- identity,
development, migration, demography, and so on. Some of these issues have
serious security implications. Thus, in an environment where the Indian foreign
policy is constantly under stress from security-dominated strategic community;
changing the nature of engagement with some neighbours, particularly China, is
not easy. It requires clear economic calculation along with economic
preparedness and strategic hedging. 12

 

 

But, the NER
has also:

 

·      
The
potential of becoming India’s powerhouse. The region has
hydropower potential estimated at nearly 50,000 MW, natural gas reserves of 190
billion cubic metres, coal reserves of over 900 million tonnes and oil reserves
of over 500 million tonnes.

·      
Large Mineral Resources including limestone
reserves of around 5000 million tonnes and a forest cover which is 25 per cent
of the country’s forest area.

·      
Phenomenal bio-diversity – forest wealth,
agro base, fruits and vegetables, herbs, aromatic plants, exotic flowers, other
flora and fauna.

·      
Large variety of agricultural produce –rice,
maize, millets, sugarcane, jute, cotton, rubber, tea, mustard, grapes, guava,
coconut, coffee, apples, pineapples, passion fruit, walnut, brinjal and a vast
range of fruits and vegetables.

·      
Very high literacy rate (over 70 %), and
large number of people fluent in English. A strong potential for growth of
information technology enabled services.

·      
Very Attractive fiscal package, subsidies on
capital investment, transport and working capital.

·      
Unparalleled Tourist Attractions like Wildlife
sanctuaries, adventure tourism, eco-tourism, hill stations, lakes, historical
heritage. 13

So, connecting a
sub-regional arrangement with north east India has both positives and negatives
for both the ends.