When Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping get down to Brasstacks at Wuhan, those in Northeast can expect the cloud of war will recede in the high Himalayas.
We in the Northeast have a vested interest in peace between China and India. When they fought in 1962, we lost a lot of our territory, a part of our population in what was then NEFA faced the travails of war and when the Chinese were at the gates of Tezpur, Nehru was prepared to leave Assam to its fate.
Thankfully India and China did not go to war over Doklam and we did not have to bargain for the Chinese armoured thrust that could cut off the Siliguri corridor because that can delink the whole of northeast from mainland India.
There is no doubt that Modi will look to set up the stage for a breakthrough in the festering border dispute. If he can do it and he needs a big bang accord with China ahead of the 2019 polls, Northeast will be happy to see the dogs of war recede forever. That can go a long way to scale down the level of militarization in the Northeast.
Going by the drop in insurgency in the region, as detailed by former NSG chief Jayanta Choudhury in this website, Delhi can surely consider removing the AFSPA and bring down force levels. A border settlement with China will boost that process still further.
If Modi and Xi raised the BRI and Act East issues and try to harmonise the two geopolitical visions with an eye on economics and not security, the Northeast can hope to see the emergence of the BCIM Economic Corridor passing through states of the region.
That has the potential to boost the region’s economy by putting it on the globalisation track. If BCIM corridor happens, big time Indian investors will move to Northeast with an eye on the Chinese market.
I have argued before that Act East through northeast will only work if China is in the matrix. Accessing Southeast Asia by sea makes more business sense but since the Chinese ports are far away in eastern China, it makes better logistics sense to access the huge market of southwest and western China by land through Northeast. That will be only possible if India and China don’t fight.
Only when India does not feel militarily threatened by China will it allow Northeast to be used for something like the proposed BCIM corridor. Which means Northeast gains only when China and India are at peace.
An opinion survey by the Guwahati based CESPR showed two years ago that people in Northeast were much keen on BCIM than those on the rest of the country. They don’t need to read Mackinder and Mahan or other big guns of geo-politics to understand that peace will help Northeast play smartly into the emerging geo-economics of Asia.
So best wishes to Modi and Xi as they try to figure out through dialogue the way the dragon and the elephant will deal with each other in the 21st century.