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Project Details

Borders: Transforming Geo Spaces and celelbrating Mobility of Ideas, Skills and People

Connectivity and Trade

  • Start Date : 01/09/17
  • End Date : 30/08/18

Project Staus : Completed

Publication : Research Report: Transforming Geo Spaces

Photogallery :


4.1. Overview:

This proposal is aimed towards providing an alternative perspective for not only the local and state government but also drawing from the past practices offer additional inputs for tourism sector and creating cross value chains for specific agro products like bamboo, turmeric. The proposal will examine immediate deliverables that provide greater livelihood opportunities for the residents at the borders while also provide ways to dovetail with the larger governmental efforts that are currently underway. The proposed project will also provide new inputs for cross border outreach of cultural heritage and tradition as well contribute to a fuller understanding of the issue for the academic and strategic community.

4.2. Background and Context:

Better connectivity and improved infrastructure for trade and transport with wide use of natural resources and in a far-sighted and ecologically sound manner is the key for economic integration and sustainable development of the Eastern South Asia. India’s North Eastern states, and her immediate four eastern neighbors, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal, and Myanmar, together comprise a geographically compact “geo space” in Eastern South Asia. History bears testimony to the fact that since time immemorial, peoples, ideas and skills have travelled within the region seamlessly. Such people flows across “geo spaces” have really enriched the region as a cultural confluence of cultures and peoples. However with many political borders that divide the region, the region is also acknowledged widely to be the least integrated in terms of economic coordination and physical connectivity.

Many regional and sub regional platforms backed by governments and multilateral agencies have been actively addressing the issue of poor regional coordination. Of late governmental policies such as India’s Act East Policy and sub-regional platforms like BIMSTEC (Bay of Bengal Multi Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation), BBIN (Bangladesh Bhutan, India and Nepal), SASEC, have gained importance. Many connectivity corridors, once active are being restored andnew ones are being built. The need for other forms of connectivity in fields such as hydropower, electronic connectivity etc.) is also being increasingly recognized. However, a long history of disconnect has made the region “psycologically divided”. Often the larger vision of connectedness and its benefit have not found roots in the hearts and minds of people on the ground. This ground level disconnect has also affected the local political narrative and impeded progress. At the heart of this disconnect is the limited understanding  of the collaboration, and partnership that exists along the land borders.Borders between India and Myanmar and India and Bangladesh are heavily securitized as well as those India shares with Nepal and Bhutan. These border regions too have not seen much meaningful development. However in pre partition times, many of these borders were vibrant routes for people and trade movement. Many routes were subsequently closed down.  Due to the great biological, anthropological and cultural diversity and the familial relations that remain, immense potential for growth and development in new sectors such as tourism, hospitality, education, border trades, agro based micro and medium scale industries exist. But these have not been exploited to their full potential to facilitate beneficial bonafide movement across these borders and make a significant impact on the overall economic and socio-cultural engagement between the nations both at bilateral as well as multilateral levels.  

The “border haat” mechanism has proved to be a success, but has failed to scale up and include local residents beyond the few individuals in the rural communities on both sides.  Beyond the two spaces of government and industry, the role of the “third space” of civil society, individual stakeholders, small entrepreneurs in forging an environment, conducive to growth, is a factor that has assumed great importance in recent times and one which cannot be overlooked. While several initiatives in these sectors are underway in silos within the borders, trans-boundary value chain creation is an existing gap given the lack of appropriate institutional mechanism. The “third space” as distinct from the government and commercial sector can play the role of “matchmakers” and “primary level incubators” with particular focus on facilitating trans-boundary movement of peoples, skills and ideas across the borders.The Asian Confluence worked on a project titled “Borders :Transforming Geo Spaces and Celebrating mobility of ideas, skills and people” along with Asia Foundation against the above backgrounder.

 4.3. Objectives:

At the heart of this project will be the following main objectives:

·     To develop a comprehensive mapping of products and services on this map. Examining the possibilities of creating larger basket of commodities that may be developed through cross border value chains enabling greater economic synergies amongst the states of Bangladesh, India and Nepal. For example, to take one agro product eg.: “bamboo” as a common connector and document the various ways in which stakeholders on both side of the border can collaborate in creating trans-boundary value chains and how these value chains can create bonafide movement of labor and movements across these corridors.

·       To map the above on the present Government of India MSME initiative and the new industrial policy formulated especially for the northeast ; and  to examine the fits and gaps.

·       To use the above to propose a policy formulation on how the narrative of “disjointedness” that now exists can be overcome to forge trans-boundary collaborationsthat can complement the current connectivity projects underway and cross border movements.

·       To suggest easier quickly off the ground products and services in the wake of large gestation period for larger infrastructural projects.

·       To launch a new narrative around movement for flows of skills, ideas and people beyond, the security centric paradigm of borders that exist today to one that is based on collaboration based on information sharing, institutional linkages and infrastructure facilitation.