Eastward Bound

Considering that the tacit policy to reach out to the West was understandably not yielding her desired expectations and interest, it was quite inevitable for India to change course and head Eastward. It was only a matter of time and political sensibility. However, while conceptually the imperativeness to develop and foster relationship in the East sounds reasonably secure, the ground realities will provide challenges that will test both India’s political character and her willingness to respect and be respected by others. Simply put, is India persuaded sufficiently to adopt and embrace a policy of ‘shared humanity’ that derives itself on values that respects the rights of all peoples? Does she have the political imagination to perceive beyond her own interests?

There is no doubt that while the gulf on the East is not as wide as it is on the Western front, the fact remains that the gulf on the East is deeper and perhaps more alluring in nature. The Look East policy therefore needs to be put into perspective. The synthesis after all can only be derived from the ongoing relationship between the thesis and the anti-thesis. Anything out of that may prove erroneous. And as of now the prevailing political relationships between the thesis and the anti-thesis in the contiguous geographical area starting from the ‘chickens-neck’ in India to the delta region of Burma-Thai border, is contentious and subsequently the resulting synthesis has proven to be acrimonious. For the northeast, the fate of the Look East policy lies in India’s political will to shift this acrimonious relationship to one of respect, dignity and shared humanity. 

It is evident that the peace processes which the Government of India is separately engaging on different fronts with various distinct groups of political nations in the northeast needs to be approached from a broader ethical framework of justice. It would indeed be an erroneous ploy to limit any of these processes to its own local context, space and time, because as diverse as these nations are, they are interrelated; and history has proven that the genesis of their struggles have undeniably influenced and propelled each other to fullness. The future of the history hence demands that India must derive a broader policy in addressing issues of self-determination and sovereignty, and while the application may vary from case to case, each depending on its own unique political history, the underlying values and principles of self-determination must form the basis of its policy and intent.

The future and vitality of the Look East policy invariably depends on India’s ability to restore ‘right-relationship’ with the political nations of the north east. By-passing this ethical process would only result in undermining an initiative that is dependent on the active participation of the people. Rather than approaching the Look East policy from a state-centric viewpoint, it would be meaningful to conceive ideas from the standpoint of the people. It takes more than just real politik and state pragmatism to be a vibrant government, its demands moral courage and political imagination. Hence decisions must be made at every level of leadership that foresees the futility of the use of force to acquire its own legitimacy. A shift must be made towards embracing value-based policies that will recognize and enable the northeast to determine its own destiny and to define its existence. It is through this praxis of a shared humanity, that India will find its strength and political relevance in the region.  

In the last few years an increasing number of examples worldwide have clearly and profoundly stated that the old systems are inadequate to meaningfully resolve political conflicts. Governments around the world are being persuaded to derive meaningful ways and relevant systems to address and resolve issues of conflicts. On issues of political aspiration, concepts of ‘Two State system’ ‘Supervised Independence’ and ‘Shared Sovereignty’ are being explored and propounded keeping in mind the interest of both States and Nations. Fundamentally, the concept of a shared humanity is being established as a principle based on which diverse framework for applications of political relationships are being explored. And at this juncture with the Indo-Naga peace process at a critical impasse that could have serious ramifications, the government of India must dig deep within its political imagination to rediscover the will once again to be relevant in the history of this region. The political will to be steadfast in its commitment to find a political solution through peaceful means is of the essence, coupled with concrete steps that clearly demonstrate its will to recognize the rights of the Nagas to exercise its sovereign powers, on the principles of a shared humanity.