Bridging the Frontier: Acting East through India's Northeast
“Borders are places of economic and poli-cal opportunity for na-ons and states as well as for a host of other interest groups and agencies, legal and illegal.”
Professor Liam O’Dowd
Centre for International Borders Research, Queen’s University, Belfast
The ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy and the ‘Act East’ policy are two key pillars of India's prevailing foreign policy initiatives. The former recognises the importance of those South Asian countries that share borders with India; and the latter signals India’s intent to strengthen connectivity linkages with its eastern neighbours (mainly Southeast Asia). This would require India to abandon its 200-year-old modus operandi of using its frontiers as buffer regions and instead use them as bridges—something China has effectively demonstrated with its Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) initiative. India’s border policy continues to be dominated by security concerns which manifest in the governance of borders as barriers rather than as bridges. However, with administrative reform, the government's Border Areas Development Programme (BADP) and Border Haat Initiative (BHI) can effectively form a skeleton for an Indian frontier policy that would achieve the multiple national objectives of generating employment, providing poverty relief, bringing about socioeconomic development, and 'Acting East’.
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