Event ReportsPublished on Jul 18, 2014
Sectors such as oil and gas, non-renewable energy, natural resources, agriculture, etc. hold tremendous potential for cooperation between India's North-East and the BCIM region. There was a need to ensure seamless movement of goods, services and people across borders to promote trade.
Need to build local capacities in India's North East
To take the full advantage of trans-national connectivity, it was critical to first build local capacities and study export potentials in the border areas. This was noted during a consultative workshop on The Role of the Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor in Regional Integration: Perspectives from Northeast India, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry in collaboration with the North Eastern Council, the Institute of Chinese Studies and Observer Research Foundation in Guwahati on 18 July, 2014.

"There is an urgent need to set up a consultative mechanism to integrate India’s Look East Policy with the requirements of the North East", observed Mr. M P Bezbaruah, Member, North Eastern Council. According to Mr. Bezbaruah, there is a need to study the export potential of the North East and match that with the demand conditions in markets such as Bangladesh, China and Myanmar. While highlighting the significance of congenial circumstances in the North East for such exports to take place he called for the need to create sustainable projects in the region in collaboration with the other countries in the BCIM grouping. It is true that some steps have already taken place in terms of road (highways), IT etc. much more needed to be done, for which local capacities needed to be built up according to the priority of the projects, he pointed out.

The BCIM Economic Corridor would link two Least Developed Countries (Bangladesh and Myanmar) with two of the world’s largest and fastest growing economies (China and India) Mr Rajeet Mitter, former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh & Leader, BCIM Economic Corridor Joint Study Group, observed while highlighting the potential of the proposed corridor that would link Kolkata in India to Kunming in China through Bangladesh and Myanmar. He stated that the initiative promises huge developmental gains for the whole sub-region with 40% of the world population, 13% of world GDP and 10% of the world’s surface area.

Mr. Mitter pointed out that the BCIM Corridor traverses areas of relative underdevelopment, particularly the landlocked southwestern part of China and India’s north eastern states, a distinct sub-region whose backwardness can be addressed not merely through national developmental programmes but also through trans-national connectivity, economic integration and cross-border cooperation.

He pointed out that the BCIM would be India’s first attempt at creating a transnational economic corridor and that the eastern and the north eastern part of India would be at the heart of this process. According to Mr. Mitter, the overriding objective of the BCIM Corridor was the comprehensive and integrated socio-economic development of the sub-region where tangible benefits accrue to the people in an equitable manner.

The priority focus for the BCIM corridor would be issues like non-tariff barriers, the harmonization of standards and the whole range of trade facilitation measures, pointed out Mr. Mitter. These would need to be further buttressed with trans-national arrangements for transit and the eventual movement of vehicles and other forms of transportation across national borders. He also drew attention to the crucial role of people-to-people contacts in fostering greater understanding, cooperation and goodwill.

While pointing out that India’s North East would be benefited from BCIM groups on the 3Ts - Transportation, Trade and Tourism, Mr. P K Rawat, Joint Secretary (East Asia), Ministry of External Affairs, observed that the idea of the BCIM Corridor actually originated from consultative meetings in which experts from industry, academics as well as the state and central governments were brought together on a single platform to discuss the issues surrounding this initiative.

Integration within the Northeast region was a prerequisite before the region could integrate with other countries, noted Mr. Barun Barpujari, Chairman, CII Assam State Council & Executive Director, Indian Oil Corporation Ltd. (AOD). He felt that sectors such as oil and gas, non-renewable energy, natural resources, agriculture, etc. hold tremendous potential for cooperation between the North East and the BCIM region. He was of the view that to promote trade, there was a need to ensure seamless movement of goods, services and people across borders.

Mr. Ameising Luikham, Secretary, North Eastern Council stated that the North East region has not been engaged with the implementation of the India’s Look East Policy, which needs to be corrected. Dr. Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Observer Research Foundation, stressed on three points in her deliberations in the Plenary Session: a) Importance of dialogue with all stakeholders at different levels to engage them in the process; b) Importance of understanding the role of perception of the neighbouring countries across the border about the BCIM initiatives; and c) importance of functional synergy between planning and execution.

The conference discussed a range of issues covering trade, finance and investment; social & human development; connectivity; sustainable development; energy; people-to-people contacts and drawn up practical suggestions to take advantage of the opportunities opened up by the BCIM Corridor for the enhancement of local livelihoods in India’s North East Region.

(This report is prepared by Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, Fellow, ORF Kolkata)

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