Integrating the Outlier: Arunachal Pradesh as Development Project and Dilemma

What follows is a summary of a presentation that I made at the 4th All India Conference of China Studies held from 8-9 November 2011 at the University of Hyderabad:

Arunachal Pradesh’s disputed status, unique socio-cultural makeup and difficult geographic location have elicited multifaceted responses from Indian policymakers. First, its disputed status and the shock of the 1962 border conflict have given it some features in common with other disputed territories bordering China, namely, a legacy of poor physical and communications infrastructure. Second, Arunachal’s demographic composition of minority ethnic groups has meant that it has like other states in Northeast India been protected from a demographic influx from the rest of India and its citizens enjoy special economic rights. Finally, the difficult geographic location of the Arunachal Pradesh has meant that it largely remains exoticized in the mainstream Indian imagination and hence little studied, and even lesser understood by those in government and those outside.

However, in the post-liberalization era, and particularly in the new millennium with the dispute with China persisting, each of these three factors have also begun to shape Arunachal in slightly different ways from the rest of its Northeast Indian neighbours and indeed from the rest of the country.

For one, the Indian government has abandoned its old policy of keeping border areas underdeveloped and is engaged in a massive infrastructure build-up in Arunachal. This naturally has a huge impact on previously important cultural and environmental concerns in the state. For another, Arunachal’s location and cultural specificities are now sought to be used as an advantage in India’s economic and/or political outreach to Southeast Asia and southwest China.

How has this Indian ‘development agenda’ affected and molded the political economy of Arunachal Pradesh and what does it say about the role and place of Arunachal in the Indian political system and imagination?

  1. Why Study Arunachal? – Rationale
  2. Arunachal Pradesh – Defining Characteristics
  3. Arunachal in India’s Security Agenda – the China Factor
  4. Arunachal in India’s Development Agenda – Margin Moves to the Centre

 

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