Extract from Jabin T. Jacob, “Border Provinces in Foreign Policy: China’s West and India’s Northeast,” in Dilip Gogoi (ed.), Beyond Borders: India’s Look East Policy and Northeast India (Guwahati: DVS Publishers, 2010), pp. 126-147.
Territory being one of the essential prerequisites for the existence of a state, territorial boundaries and border polities are the focus of much attention from governmental authority. In the case of South Asia, where the nation-state itself is of recent vintage, the many nations that were born at various times from the remains of British India were quick to adopt the caution and suspicion that marked colonial border policy. As a result, borders areas continue to be viewed as requiring strict government (often central government) control and supervision and even development activities are prioritized below security interests. In the case of areas such as the Northeast of India such a policy has meant that a region that was once a bridge connecting peoples, cultures and civilizations, and a centre of trade and commerce has now been reduced to a periphery and dependant on doles and subsidies from the central government. However, this is by no means a situation unique to India. The periphery in China represented by the minority ethnic group-dominated provinces of the vast western region of the country have suffered similarly under central government anxieties that have seen the imposition of heavy-handed state control from Beijing.
However, beginning in the 1990s China has given greater leeway in economic matters, to these provinces of the west under its Western Development Strategy (WDS). In India, too, there is greater attention being paid to connecting India’s Look East Policy (LEP), a foreign policy initiative, with the economic development of the Indian Northeast. Might the WDS and the LEP be compared? This paper examines the rationale for such a comparison and looks at the results derived and their implications.
Comparing China’s West and India’s Northeast