As “Look East, Act East” is promoted as India’s official policy towards Myanmar, the Institute of Social Sciences and Burma Centre Delhi, with the support by HBF, undertook a review of relations, with a particular perspective on the joint border regions. A two-day international conference on “India-Myanmar Relations: Looking from the Border” took place in Delhi in September 2015, and a booklet documents its proceedings.
The major focus of the conference was on India’s Act East Policy and its implications for Northeast India and Myanmar, connectivity, trade and investment, role of media, education, sports, health, drugs, etc. As a result, this compilation of conference papers provides a useful source of information and in depths into the similarities and the complexities of the relations between India and Myanmar.
India and Myanmar share concerns involving a number of closely related issues. It is imperative to create mechanisms and platforms to foster meaningful dialogue. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has unveiled his government’s strategy for re-orienting India’s ties with Myanmar and other South East Asian neighbors. India’s “Act East Policy” is expected to not just bring greater engagements between India and Myanmar involving various state and non- state actors, but also usher in a new era of development for the Northeastern states of India through a network of pipelines, connectivity, communications and trade with South East Asia.
India’s growing engagement with South East Asia in general and Myanmar in particular has raised the stakes for the people of North-East India. The region has the potential to become India’s trade gateway to the ASEAN countries. The North East is expected to act as the strategic catalyst and a game changer. The Modi Government’s ‘Act East’ policy has formally recognized the strategic importance of the much-neglected North East.
The joint projects and initiatives including the transportation and infrastructure projects require good understanding among the countries. Similarly, issues like border trade, drug trafficking and trans-border militancy require removal of restrictions of various kinds and streamlining border management. Border trade, infrastructural development and a host of possibilities promise a bright future for the North East. However, connectivity projects will become connectivity corridors only when people-to-people engagements become vigorous and meaningful. People of Northeast India stand to benefit the most from the connectivity corridors and civil society engagements.