Abstract: The development of the North East hinges on a range of factors. One of the aspects that could play an important role in the matter is the improvement of infrastructure along the India-China boundary in the sector. While both India and China have legitimate security interests to consider along their common, disputed frontiers, renewed focus on developing border relations between the two Asian giants, especially in the light of recent infrastructure developments in the North East, could have a salutary effect. If security is defined also as the maintenance of peace and harmony along borders, New Delhi and Beijing might find that the current phase of infrastructure development by both the countries along the common frontier could provide for such security in a number of ways. In this context, it is my contention that the pursuit of cross-border economic initiatives by both countries must focus on letting sub-national actors such as the states (on the Indian side) and the provinces (on the Chinese side) take the lead. The time has come to stop thinking of borders as being static or unchanging and to abandon the belief that achieving fixed boundaries or the defence of those lines as defined on a map is a guarantee of national security.
For the North East, this is a position that could possibly contribute to the reordering of priorities accorded to it by New Delhi. Moreover, such an approach could offer ‘mainstream’ India a way out of the dilemma it has often been caught in: whether to consider the North East as a part of India that has genuine developmental aspirations or only as a region for which security should be the sole concern—the latter, either because of the several ethnopolitical problems that beleaguer the region, or because it as a buffer zone against external pressure.
Original Article: “Beyond the McMahon Line: Infrastructure Development in the North Eastern Sector,” in Jaideep Saikia (ed.), Frontier in Flames: North East India in Turmoil (New Delhi: Penguin, 2007), pp. 170-85.