North East in BCIM-EC: Challenges and Prospects
The former Indian High Commissioner said that the major objective of the BCIM-EC is the comprehensive and integrated socio-economic development of the sub-region where actual benefits accrue to the people in an equitable manner. He stated that the priority areas for the BCIM would be issues like non-tariff barriers, harmonisation of standards and wide ranging trade facilitation measures. According to him, these would need to be further buttressed with transnational arrangements for transit and the eventual movement of vehicles and other forms of transportation across national borders. He further noted that the promotion of production hubs and supply chain networks along the corridor would generate new and additional trade flows and more employment opportunities. He also pointed out the crucial role of people-to-people contacts in fostering greater understanding, cooperation and goodwill.
While participating in the workshop, P K Rawat, Joint Secretary (East), Ministry of External Affairs, said that the thought process of the BCIM-EC actually originated in the North East with thinkers such as B G Verghese writing about the idea while based in the region. He maintained that such consultative meetings brought together industry, leading thinkers in the region as well as state and central governments on a single platform to discuss the issues related to the BCIM. Emphasising North East as the stakeholder in the initiative, he said, “BCIM started as Kunming Initiative. With the passage of time, it has broadened with new thinking on developing an economic corridor. Involvement of industry and stakeholders from the region is very important”.
Outlining the industry perspective, Barun Barpujari, Chairman, CII Assam State Council and Executive Director, Indian Oil Corporation (AOD), said that integration within the region is a prerequisite before the region could integrate with other countries. In his opinion, sectors such as oil and gas, non-renewable energy, natural resources, agriculture etc have vast potential for cooperation between North East and the BCIM region. Ameising Luikham, Secretary, NEC, stated that the North East has not been engaged with the implementation of the LEP. He felt that this needed to be corrected and a consultative mechanism set up for the same. North East is an ethnic mosaic and region has plenty of resources. But at the same time, North East is considered as the most backward region of the country. The stakeholders, therefore, raised questions on the impact on people, culture and bio-diversity once North East’s borders are opened up for trade and transit under the framework of the BCIM-EC. Many in North East believe that once such concerns are addressed properly, the region’s integration with the fastest growing economies of Southeast and East Asia would lead to economic resurgence in a zone which did not receive sufficient attention of the Indian ruling elites for a long time.