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Sat, 22 Feb 2020

Northeast Today

Understanding Geopolitics of India’s Northeast

Understanding Geopolitics of India’s Northeast
February 10
12:50 2020

NET Bureau

Akshay Jyoti Sarma

Dilip Gogoi’s recent book Making of India’s Northeast is a new addition to the scholarly literatures on North East India. The book situates the North East India as sub-state region in Indian foreign policy from the perspective of international Relations. The book is the first of its kind in explaining manifold complexities of the geopolitically trapped border land through theoretical lenses of International Relations by using three dominant perspectives, i.e., realism, liberalism and constructivism.

Towards the end, the author takes the constructivist worldview with a framework of ‘region-state’ to liberate the region from the geo-political trap and integrate it with greater South East Asian region.

The book comprising total seven chapters traverses the complex discourse of making of frontier and borderland, shaping of a region through colonial and postcolonial interventions, geopolitics of region making and possible transnational interactions. The author has theoretically conceptualised the making of frontier and borderland with the evolution of sovereign state and International law. Subsequently, the author explains conflict and cooperation among the bordering states from the perspective of realism and summarises that international border remains a ‘conduit of interstate conflict and cooperation’. The author has highlighted three distinct perspectives – the proximity perspective, the interaction perspective and the territoriality perspective to understand the border conflict among the neighbouring states. With thistheoretical understanding the author explains the region making process of North East India through a historical understanding from colonial to post-colonial region building processes. Admitting the fact –the Northeast represents heterogeneity in terms of nationality with their multiple aspirations, the author views that the region has continued to bear the legacy of the colonial construction of frontier in the ‘politico-administrative discourse’ of post-colonial India.

The author analyses how geopolitically driven threats emanating from the neighbouring China, Bangladesh and Myanmar has caused India’s national security compulsions, thus making the region territorially trapped and geopolitically volatile. In this context, the book argues that the contested border in the region has remained a source of militarised territorial conflict between India and China on the one hand,and the nature of interactions of the region with Bangladesh and Myanmar through the porous border has remained a facilitator ofsocietal and low intensity conflict on the other, resulting in security implications for the region as well as the nation. The penultimate chapter of the book delves deep into India’s Look East through North East to integrate the region with South East Asia. However, the neoliberal centric state intervention in the region is unable to bring desired goals as there is no significant impact of Look East through North East in the region till date. Under Look East it was expected that the Northeast could be promoted as a hub of transnational trade and connectivity through cross- border trade. On the contrary, the author has argued that the region has not been benefited with such arrangements and nor it has become a potential trade corridor primarily due to the neoliberal centric economic intervention.

The Northeast has remained marginalised throughout the post-colonial history due to geopolitical complexities and ‘India’s national security compulsions’, despite being located at ‘the confluence of East, Southeast and South Asia’. The author has highlighted the systemic factors that induced the sustained marginalisation of the Northeast and advocated a region-state modelin the line of constructivist worldview to overcome the present geopolitical impasse and integrate the region with the South East Asia. The book has called for an adoption of three distinct approaches i.e., local national and internationalto re-conceptualise the region- state frame work towards integrating with the South East Asia. The book argues such re-conceptualisation would not only boost economic development in the Northeast but also, as the author has claimed, would earn political and economic dividends for the entire nation.

With lucid articulation of the geopolitics of Northeast India and unique deliberation of the region in the emerging context of transnational interactions,the present work will definitely place the scholarship on the Northeast into a greater height. The arguments and perspectivesput in the book would certainly of interests to a wide range of readers including the academics and the policy makers.

(Akshay Jyoti Sarma is Assistant Professor at OKD Institute of Social Change and Development, Guwahati. Email: [email protected]).

Dilip Gogoi, 2020
Making of India’s Northeast: Geopolitics of Borderland and Transnational Interactions, Routledge: London and New York, Pp. 275

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