Guns, Blankets and Bird Flu

Original Article: Jabin T. Jacob, “The India-Myanmar Borderlands: Guns, Blankets and Bird Flu,” SPIRIT Occasional Papers, No. 6, Sciences Po (Bordeaux), October 2010.

Abstract: The India-Myanmar border regions form a forgotten frontier in the Indian and global imagination. India’s frontiers to the west (Pakistan), to the north (Tibet/China) and to the south (Sri Lanka and the Indian Ocean) have always received greater attention. Today, however, the region representing the conjunction of India, China and Myanmar is returning to the centre of attention for a number of reasons both old and new. Violence (‘Guns’) has been endemic in the region since communities and peoples were rent asunder by the imposition and policing of officially demarcated borders between India and Myanmar. Yet, trade (‘Blankets’) – both formal and informal – has managed to carry on. What has added to the importance of the region in the eyes of the national capitals, is the increasing severity of transnational challenges such as drug-trafficking and the spread of diseases (‘Bird Flu’). Together, these three factors have kept both a regional identity as well as specific community identities alive. This paper examines the region-building properties of these factors.

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