By NJ Thakuria, Guwahati:
Various civil society and media representatives of Myanmar (formerly Burma) and northeast Indian States have emphasized on more people to people contact between the two neighboring countries and highlighted the need of Myanmarese diplomat offices in Guwahati with regular flight services from Mandalay to Buddha Gaya via Imphal/ Guwahati to give a push to connectivity as also to promote Buddhist tourism.
The participants in a two day conference in New Delhi recently also called for the earliest completion of the Integrated Check Post being built in Moreh which will house all regulatory agencies like immigration, customs, border security together with support facilities like warehouses, banks, quarantine office etc.
There was unanimity on these points among the civil society and media representatives, academics and former civil servants and Government officials who participated in `India-Myanmar Relations: Looking from the Border`, organized by the Delhi-based Institute of Social Sciences (ISS) and Burma Centre Delhi (BCD) with the support of the Heinrich Boll Foundation on 28-29 September at ISS auditorium.
Delivering the keynote address, former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Rajiv Bhatia said that India’s `Act East Policy` is not a mere replacement of `Look East Policy.` The policy switch focuses on action and implementation. If the earlier emphasis was on economic cooperation, now the accent is on strategic cooperation, he added.
Ambassador Bhatia further said that Myanmar is going to play the role of a major window to India`s increasing trade & commerce with South East Asian nations. He hoped that a liberal democratic Myanmar will emerge after the November 8 general elections.
The former diplomat also batted for an inclusive growth in the northeastern region so that the relationship with Myanmar could sustain without any hindrance.
Tapir Gao, former Member of Parliament from Arunachal Pradesh, described Myanmar as `the heart of ASEAN`. He too expressed hope that a new era in India-Myanmar relations would dawn. However, he urged the civil society, media and other stakeholders to help provide a clear blueprint as to how the northeastern region can act as the game changer.
Lian Bawi Thang of Chin Human Rights Organization welcomed India’s engagement including in the Kladan Multi-modal Project, but also called for transparency. Ting Oo from Arakan Rivers Network drew the attention towards people`s apprehensions about land confiscation for the project.
Others who addressed the conference included former India Ambassador to Myanmar Preet Mohan Singh Malik, journalist Sanjoy Hazarika, Indo-Myanmar Border Traders` Union president W Nabachandra Singh, Democratic Voice of Burma’s Khin Maung Win, Heinrich Böll Stiftung India director Dr Axel Harneit-Sievers, ISS director Ash Narain Roy, BCD director Alana Golmei etc.