IMPHAL: A webinar hosted jointly by the Asian Confluence, the ASEAN India Center (AIC) at RIS, New Delhi and the Mandalay Forum for East Asian Studies, Mandalay on the theme “Brahmaputra-Ayeyarwady Dialogue: India Myanmar Cooperation for Prosperous Border Zone” has called for the ongoing connectivity projects underway between India and Myanmar to bear more fruits of connectivity needed to reach people below and around the bridges.
In a press release, Asian Confluence that the discussion tried to assess the opportunities and challenges on the current agendas of collaboration, bringing together a renewed narrative of cooperation post-COVID era.
Delivering its inaugural address, ambassador Saurabh Kumar (India’s Ambassador to Myanmar) recalled his visit to border areas and highlighted the role of the Border Area Development program put in by the Government of India(GOI) and how it has helped in developing socio-economic institutes in Chin state and Naga-Self Administered areas.
He said that bus connectivity and border haats will be game-changer for people-to-people connectivity, particularly for health and religious tourism also added that India-Myanmar Industrial Training Center were also being proposed in Rakhine state, which would give communities capabilities to enable them to get employment in industries which are coming up in Myanmar.
While, ambassador Myo Kyaw Aung, Myanmar’s Ambassador to India, in his inaugural address brought out that connectivity plays a key role in the bilateral relations and India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway will act as a bridge between India and ASEAN for trade and tourism and reiterated Myanmar’s commitment towards Indian security and Myanmar will continue to support India in curbing insurgency and terrorism
In her keynote address, Dr. Najma Heptulla, Governor Manipur advocated the revival of border trade and underlined the crucial role of trade and connectivity in the transformation of border states. She also brought about the unmatched potential of the tourism sector in NER and said, “North-East Region is a paradise unexplored for national and international tourists”. She also underlined cultural and academic engagements between NER and Myanmar and talked about the Burmese language schools in Manipur Universities and other educational institutions.
Mr. R.K Ranjan (MP-Inner Manipur) also said that Indian investments in Myanmar should increase especially in the agricultural and food processing sector.
However, in the technical session, chaired by former Indian Ambassador to Myanmar Gautam Mukhopadhyay all the panelists agreed that the way forward for India-Myanmar relations is to focus on infrastructure, trade and connectivity whereas the South Asia Regional Representative, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) Japan Mr. Keiichi Onozawa highlighted the Japanese projects underway and suggested that to improve its economy India needs to improve its labor laws to take advantage of its unskilled labor and improve its free trade agreement regime.
Setting of border haats, more trade posts, bus connectivity, hard infrastructure and soft facilitation in the borders, sound policies dealing with illegal migration at borders, special processing zones at the border, etc. need to increase Indian investment in Myanmar, particularly in the agricultural sector. Increasing the productivity of people at borders with capacity building programs and investment in border economic zones were flagged as areas that need immediate intervention.
The webinar was attended by a panel of experts, namely, Head, ASEAN India Center (SAIC) at RIS who made a detailed presentation Dr.Prabir De, Founder and Chief Economist Parami Roundtable Think-tank and Senior Advisor MISIS Yangon Dr Myo Thant, Executive Director CESD Myanmar Yangon Dr. Zaw Oo, Director CEES Myanmar Yangon Dr. Myo Myo Myint, Director Centre for Entrepreneurship and Skill Development Manipur University Dr. Ch Ibohal Meitei, Manipur University Professor Priyoranjan Singh, Chairman and Managing Director Shija Hospital and Research Institute Dr Palin Khundongbam and Convener Act East Policy Committee Dr. R.K. Shivachandra solemnly in the technical session.
The web event also had been conducted with an active participation from several scholars, practitioners, government officials and experts.