‘Appropriate response’ for neighborhood

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The “Agartala doctrine of appropriate reciprocal response ‘ is worth consideration for India’s neighborhood policy, experts said.

Discussing journalist author Subir Bhaumik’s ‘Agartala Doctrine: Proactive Northeast in Indian foreign policy, a select panel of diplomats, scholars, politicians and media persons said Tripura’s handling of Bangladesh is worth emulation.

Meghalaya chief secretary K S Kropha said there is much in this doctrine that could be used while dealing with neighbouring countries.

shillong 05 march 2016

Subir at Asian Confluence, Shillong

“Other states in Northeast should carefully analyze the Tripura experience and take lessons,” he said while launching the book at ‘Asian Confluence’ in Shillong.

“Tripura’s leaders play a huge role in setting the stage for India’s ultimate intervention to create Bangladesh. That is a huge contribution because that act of throwing Pakistan out of the East pioneered by Sachindralal Singha saved northeast and helped India tackle the insurgencies in the region,” said Prof B B Dutta, chairperson of ‘Asian Confluence’.

He also lauded current Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar’s proactive role in striking at insurgent bases inside Bangladesh during 2001-2004 by using surrendered guerillas and Bangladesh mafias, as detailed in Bhaumik’s book published by Oxford University Press.

“Tripura’s smart play of geopolitics has helped it turn its disadvantages into advantage and leverage an access to sea via Bangladesh. That should incentivize other states to develop good relations with Bangladesh and the Meghalaya chief minister Mukul Sangma was following a similar policy now,” Dutta said.

Former ambassador Riewad Warjiri , chairing the discussions , said India’s Look East must happen through Northeast and the states must play a positive and proactivce role.

He referred to departed leader Purna Sangma’s vision on the issue and said Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar was perhaps on the same track.

Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim endorsed the ‘Agartala doctrine’ but lashed out at Dewlhi’s inadequiate uinderstanding of ground realities in Northeast’, which she said was reflected in former junior foreign minister Shashi Tharoor’s article in the book edited by Bhaumik.

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Guwahati launch

She also stressed for a ‘stronger Northeastern voice’ on critical issues relating to neigborhood policies and called for taking a clue from the Tripura line.

“But I insist that one state cannot achieve much. All Northeastern states should join hands to provide the big push so that Look East actually became Act East and not just remained a cliche,” Patricia Mukhim said.

She said Delhi has to stop viewing Northeast from a security prism and take definite steps to make regional groupings like BCIM and BIMSTEC meaningful.

Toki Blah raised crucial issues connected to the ‘direction’ of the Look East policy.

“We need clarity on the content and direction of Look East policy and who is it going to benefit,” he said.

Replying to issues raised by panelists, Bhaumik said the doictrine of appropriate response has worked for Tripura in creating a positive neighborhood environment for its security and development at the same time.

“Now it is upto the mandarins in Delhi to adopt this doctrine to help it tide over huge policy confusion in handling the neighborhood. We neither need Monroe doctrine of neighbvorhood dominance nor Gujral doctrinre of unilateral magnanimity. We need to be friendly with friendly neighbors but consider tit-for-tat with those who create trouble for those who create trouible for us,” Bhaumik said.

He said China must be in the matrix of Look East policy — or else Indian or foreign capital will not come to Northeast to set up industry.

“They need to be promised the Chinese market, they won’t come to the region if you promise them the market of Laos,” said Bhaumik.

NEHU vice chancellor S KL Srivastava, while launching the book, announced that his university will soon have a research and study center on South-east Asia.

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