A short account of a trip that I went on between 28 July and 6 August 2011 along with Mirza Zulfiqur Rahman and Brian Orland. As all good trips go, it was decided at virtually the 11th hour. Mirza and I met at a coffee shop pretty much decided we were headed to Northeast India in a few days time. There must have been something in the coffee, for we swung from Tripura to Thailand in the space of a few minutes and Brian then joined us because he happened to be in the neighbourhood. The account below was originally written for a strategic affairs think-tank and so does not do full justice to our trip that was full of interesting people, places, and happenings. Perhaps another time.
Thailand has been involved in a number of ways in developments across the border in Burma. While trade and commerce through multiple points on the border form a very big part of their bilateral relationship, also coming through the borders has been a steady stream of Burmese refugees and migrant workers. Prominent points of contact include the Three Pagodas Pass and Mae Sot, both in western Thailand and Mae Sai in northern Thailand. Continue reading Migration and Exile at the Thai-Myanmar Border
Presentation made in Session 5: Institutional Arrangements at the 10th Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Regional Cooperation Forum, Kolkata, 19 February 2012.
There has been a constant debate between India and China about bringing the Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar (BCIM) Regional Cooperation Forum up to the full Track-1 level. There is the example of the Russia-India-China Track-2 dialogue that has a parallel Track-1 process starting with meetings of the three foreign ministers and later followed by regular meetings of the heads of government. This was no doubt inspired also by the post-9/11 scenario of unilateral US actions and the need for an alternative global order formulation. The point is that this can be done.
Today, the BCIM is in effect a Track-1.5 process, involving both scholars as well as officials even if the level of official participation varies from country to country. It is understood that for all the flexibility of the Track-2 mechanism, any real action is only possible if government officials are involved. But since the flexibility is useful, a case can be made for Track-1.5 plus Track-1 level interactions, so that governments have a role to play at all stages. Continue reading Institutionalizing the BCIM: The Next Steps
Presentation made in Session 3: Regional Connectivity: Tourism, Transport & Infrastructure at the 10th Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Regional Cooperation Forum, Kolkata, 18 February 2012
Assam has the look of great reserves of strength and potential power…I have no doubt that great highways by road, air and rail will go across her connecting China and India, and ultimately connecting East Asia with Europe. Assam will then no longer be an isolated far away province but an important link
between the East and West.
after a visit to then undivided Assam, December 1945
Nearly 70 years later – including over 10 years of the BCIM initiative – regional connectivity has little to show by way of progress. There is an almost never-ceasing flow of ideas, as well there should be, in a sub-region with a long history of cultural and economic connections. But despite the end of the Cold War and the rapid expansion of regionalism the world over, including in the immediate neighbourhood in the form of various ASEAN mechanisms and the SCO, the BCIM sub-region seems caught in a time warp of sorts. Why is this the case?
One part of the answer might lie in other regional mechanism that neighbours the BCIM initiative, namely, SAARC. With the South Asian grouping still moribund, let us face it – the infection that ails the BCIM process is of Indian subcontinental origins. The connectivity “gaps” in the BCIM sub-region extend to 4 major areas: population movement, transport infrastructure, communications infrastructure and development infrastructure.
Continue reading Regional Connectivity: The Gaps ‘on the Ground’