Original presentation titled, ‘People-to-People Connectivity’, Stakeholders’ Consultative Workshop on the BCIM Economic Corridor, organized by the Institute of Chinese Studies with the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), Kolkata, 2 May 2014.
A. What are your governing values/principles in which you see people-to-people connectivity?
B. What are you trying to achieve?
C. What are you trying to avoid?
D. What are the practical issues involved in implementing these principles and achieving these objectives?
A. Governing principles
– open society
B. What do we want to achieve?
i) historical / cultural revival
- anti/counter-Partition objectives of reviving connections
- cultural exchanges
- digital transmission of cultural content
- centres for exchanges and education for the culture of ethnic groups of China, South Asia and Southeast Asia
- archaeological research and cultural relic protection
- cultural industries
ii) political interests
- soft power objectives
- Buddhist exchanges
- teaching English in CM countries
- security interests
- prevent radicalization or extremism by greater openness to cross-border ethnic, family and other linkages
iii) economic interests
- trade, including border trade through movement of traders and businessmen
iv) implementation interests
- movement of unskilled labour, and skilled workers and experts easily how for example, are industrial hubs in the Northeast to be developed without regular and large-scale labour flows from Bangladesh?
- to meet Myanmar’s need skilled labour and experts for its dev projects without movement from India and China?
- scientific and R&D collaboration
- joint research on biodiversity and wildlife
- joint research on trade and labour issues
- medical tourism
C. What do we want to avoid?
i. cultural conflict
ii. cultural exoticization
– the Yunnan case of monetization of ethnic heritage has its problems
iii. political conflict
– insider versus tourist/outsider conflict
iv. economic conflict
– lost business opportunities
— leading to C.iii. – above
v. security problems
i. physical infrastructure
ii. communication infrastructure
iii. identification procedures
– how can India’s UID/Aadhar project be implemented in a politically correct and secure manner to the benefit of the process of people-to-people movement in the BCIM region?
– liberal visa regime
iv. immigration procedures
To enable people-to-people connectivity work to full potential, one must be clear what the governing values/principles are. In the case of India, clearly, these must include respect for democracy, open society and federalism. This in other words, seeks to integrate, in the BCIM context, the wishes and advantages of border community populations.
Next, what exactly does India seek to achieve? There is an element of historical revival in the form of anti/counter-Partition objectives of reviving connections. There is also the need for cultural revival and revitalization which might be achieved through cultural exchanges. There are also political interests including soft power objectives such as Buddhist exchanges and security interests such as the prevention of radicalization or extremism by being more open to cross-border ethnic, family and other linkages. There are economic interests to be achieved through the movement of traders and businessmen and tourism. People-to-people connectivity is also necessary if other goods are to be implemented – how for example, are industrial hubs in the Northeast to be developed without regular and large-scale labour flows from Bangladesh? Or how is Myanmar to meet its need for skilled labour and expertise for its development projects without movement from India and China? Scientific and R&D collaboration and joint research projects all need a regular and considerably freer movement of people than currently exists.
There are also negative effects to be avoided such as cultural and political conflict, cultural exoticization, and security problems.
The practicalities of people-to-people movement also require through consideration if it is to be successful. Apart from the requirement of good physical and communication infrastructure, identification procedures at borders or within countries need to be modernized. These factors can then give greater impetus to a more liberalized visa and regime and immigration procedures in the BCIM region. Some measures to promote to people-to-people connectivity include cross-border cultural festivals and the creation of ‘special education zones’ and ‘special tourism zones’ especially geared to the citizens of the BCIM region.