Social and Political Mapping of Popular Movements, Logistical Vision and Infrastructure of India


Social & Political Mapping of Popular Movements,
Logistical Vision & Infrastructure of India


Concept Note


To Understand Different Components and Profile of Expansion of Logistical Spaces/Visions of Look East Policy for East and North East India and South East Asia (2016-2018)


Vision of Another Logistical Space and its Complementary Possibilities


As far back as 1924 the clandestine Turkestan Socialist Party had stipulated in its programme that the establishment of railway links between Turkestan, Iran, India and China was one of the foremost requirements for the economic revival of Central Asia, thereby liberating Central Asian markets from the monopoly of Russian railway systems. This regional patriotic initiative was as short lived as its originator and the Soviet government subsequently reinforced the northward links. However, a century prior to this, Russian imperial strategic thinking had designated the north-south line as the best alternative in the drive down south to the warm water ports. Interestingly, the north-south linkage has been revived in the political rhetoric of Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev who argues.


If we look at a geographical map then it is easy to notice that there is a consecutive vertical row of countries of Eurasia from Russia in the north to India in the south (Central Asian countries, Iran, Pakistan) that does not yet link either with the east or with the west. I would call this continuous belt of countries situated along the meridian of the centre of Eurasia the ‘belt of anticipation’.


Nazarbayev’s “belt of anticipation” is particularly interesting since it indicates a vertical definition of the Eurasian space that is generally visualized as a horizontal expanse. Much of the transportation link connecting Asia with Europe was historically conceptualized as east-west, epitomized by the Silk Route. But this east–west corridor frequently had smaller north-south off shoots leading to southern ports. Sadriddin Ayni, for instance mentions book trade from Kolkata to Bukhara. 


The definition is also significant in terms of the actual states that are included in this conceptualization: Russia, India and the countries in between, that is the Central Asian republics, China including Tibet, and then Iran and Pakistan. The silences are, of course, more than important. The definition excludes Afghanistan, a state that is now sought to be identified as a link within the Eurasian space. In a sense, of course this vertical definition has precedence in a vision where a north-south linkage was conceptualized as an alternative transport route that would link Russia, Iran and India. The corridor was conceived as stretching from ports in India across the Arabian Sea to the southern Iranian port of Bandar Abbas where goods would then transit to Iran and the Caspian Sea ports in the Russian sector of the Caspian. From there the route stretches along the Volga River via Moscow to northern Europe. Along with Russia, India and Iran this project was subsequently joined by Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Azerbaijan. More recently the Turkman President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov in his meetings with Iranian leaders expressed interest in the project. Recent speech by the Kazakhstan Foreign Affairs Minister at the Asia Society, New York, on 23 September 2014 on the new projects under the Silk Route conveys the same vision in stronger terms.


Another alternative was envisioned as a north-south axis that then would connect to the east-west one, thereby linking Central and West Asia to South and South East Asia. Late in 2005 the US administration introduced a novel idea about regional divisions by placing the Central and South Asian regions within the same division. The principles of the policy were outlined by the US State Department and reflected in the US National Security Strategy published in March 2006. This was a departure from the earlier US policy that regarded Central Asia as a separate region tied to the CIS and was in recognition of a trend in international affairs in the first part of the twenty first century where there is acknowledgement of a transformation of economic and political relations taking place throughout Southwest Asia, the Middle East and Eurasia. The goal was to formulate a concept to encapsulate the totality of these trends and this led to the idea of a ‘Greater Central Asia’ encompassing an area that included “India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran the countries of the Caucasus and the countries that were previously socialist republics in the Soviet Union and Xinjiang province of China as well as some other lands in this large and pivotal region.” This was projected as a benign and equitable intellectual development that reflected the rich history of interaction in commerce and international affairs and deep rooted cultural commonalities and values.


Richard Boucher nominated to the new post of Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs noted that “South and Central Asia belong together” by virtue of Afghanistan, which  lies at the centre of the region, and can be a bridge that links the two regions rather than a barrier that divides them. The Central Asian Infrastructure Integration Initiative that was launched in October 2005 was designed to execute the implementation of the idea of turning Afghanistan into a link between Central and South Asia and integrate them into a single region. As part of the initiative priority has been given to the Almaty-Bishkek-Dushanbe-Kabul-Karachi highway, a transportation and energy corridor that would cross Afghanistan and tie Central and South Asia together. As part of this in early 2006, the US State department was restructured: Central Asia was taken away from the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs to become part of the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs ---- an effort to integrate the region with its ‘natural’ neighbourhood. In Russia “Central Asia” has been replaced with the term “Central Asian region” which includes the former Soviet Republics but also Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan. While a difference between the components of the two perceptions of a larger Central Asian region is evident there is nonetheless a convergence on the need for a larger conceptualization reflecting the inter-connectedness of regions that seem to be at play. It may be argued that this conceptualization is part of a larger global effort at creating regional configurations exemplified in Eurasia by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. This requirement has meant that the geopolitical function of what is termed as Eurasia has been reinterpreted keeping in mind requirements of regional cooperation and connectivity. In the 21st century the function of the pivot area has been described as ensuring sustainable land contacts along the parallels (West-East) and the meridians (North-South) thereby  contributing to consistent geopolitical and economic integration of large and isolated areas of the Asian continent. India’s logistical ideas on the West bank on these elements.


Logistics to make sense as a concept has to be considered comprehensively in all its ramification, and thus this research programme has to take into account strategies both to the east and the west. China for instance has a one belt one road strategy for the west (that compliments its vision for the South and South East Asia) and involves a route through Central Asia. India’s proposal for a North South Corridor through Iran into the region and further north and west is another example. In both these perspectives Central Asia becomes crucial for an understanding of the logistic design. Similarly the US has its own ideas about linking South and Central Asia with Afghanistan as the fulcrum.


A Compelling Vision involving the East


The world is entering a new phase of competition for geopolitical and geo-economic spaces, with China’s economy set to emerge as the largest in the world.  The Chinese have gone ahead with opening a whole series of new trade routes or by reviving old silk routes which are essentially land to sea routes.  Japan is trying for, what its ambassador in Dhaka S. Sadoshima says, an integration of two oceans­­ - Pacific and Indian for its new economic outreach and fresh strategic space.  The “Asia pivot” strategy is driven by military considerations to “contain” China, but as it tries to unite countries of Rimland Asia against China (the Big Dragon), it encourages closer connectivity that paves the way for closer economic integration between India and Southeast Asia.  All these open new logistic spaces for the global capital, a new scenario, in which there are possibilities of re-emergence of Kolkata as a vital nodal point of connectivity. Kolkata, once the capital of British Empire and a prima donna in 19th – 20th century global colonial economy, is now the capital of West Bengal. This state, in its undivided form (united Bengal) was one of the richest provinces of pre-British and British India. Calcutta’s geopolitical location helped the British not only create their Indian Empire but also expanded influence into East and Southeast Asia.  It served to bridge the different regions of Asia in a colonial framework. But half a century of political turmoil and massive human relocations (during Partition and after) have left its economy in bad shape. The vicissitudes of Partition marginalized Bengal and Calcutta, but its geopolitical, geo-economic, and geo-strategic importance never went away. These are now proving to be critical elements in the logistical calculations of the new age.


Thus, in various blueprints on the age of new connectivity, mercantilism, and new supply chains (emanating from ADB, various Japanese banks, Japan’s overseas aid department, Singapore, and China’s various planning organs), Kolkata is seen as still holding the key to regional integration between South, Southeast and East Asia.  While New Delhi plans the Amristsar-Kolkata Corridor as the main growth zone of Gangetic India – a corridor that starts from the northwestern part of India and ends at Kolkata – the city is also the starting point of the Kolkata-Kunming highway, along which China has proposed the BCM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) economic corridor. Their vision of this corridor is one of locating major industries and services like tourism on this corridor that connects many “backward” areas. In short, Kolkata is the (possibly only) city in India which figures as the start or end point of two economic growth corridors – one national, the other a trans-regional one (Kolkata-Kunming) called BCIM economic corridor, as proposed by China.


So it is important to study Kolkata’s past and future, because it is the only city in India that links a national growth corridor (Amritsar-Kolkata), with a proposed trans-regional growth corridor (BCIM, Kolkata-Kunming or K2K). The strategic outcome of a such study will throw light on (a) national visions of the two respective growth corridors – China and India involving other nations; (b) the actions of respective nations to implement them; (c) the economic and geopolitical calculations involved; (d) their implications for economic transformation and competition both in Asia and the world; and finally, (e) how Kolkata figures in the new Great Game of competition and collaboration (the two goes hand in land in the new area).


In short, the study will throw light on the possibilities of Kolkata playing a crucial role in the new geopolitics of Asia in the context of two big power rivalries (US trying to block BCIM while China pushes for K2K), the new logistic space likely to be created by the new politics of regional cooperation (BCIM, BIMSTEC) and India’s Look East policy. It will also throw light on the missing link between two elements in this vision: links with China and links with South East Asia (involving ASEAN, Asian Highway, linking with maritime states of South East Asia, and finally reaching the Pacific with Indian capital, technology, and goods).


India’s Look East Policy and Its Ramifications


India’s Look East (LE) policy has developed in multiple contexts. The policy involves the territorially reorganized Northeast with several autonomous sub regions, with the North East by itself being a conflict zone. LE is seen also as a post-conflict measure of the Indian State involving pacification of the region and expansion of the government. Logistical expansion in the form of new roads, banks, air traffic, and other supply networks is justifiably seen as a part of the repertoire of governing conflicts. In this repertoire there is a mix of global trends and local particularities. Each major military operation has been followed by major administrative measures of territorial reorganization, regrouping of villages, expansion of panchayati raj, and the introduction of territorial autonomies along ethnic lines, finally followed by expansion of commerce, trade, mining, plantation, natural resource exploitation, and other extractive activities – producing a kind of crony capitalism in the entire region. Regrouping of villages in both Mizoram and Tripura had economic justification as the formal one with the goal of weaning away indigenous peasantry from the path of insurgency by extending the architecture of security at the macro level and by making the indigenous peasant a rational economic actor and a participant in the process of commercialization of forestry. Today a new class of dealers, contractors, leaseholders, smugglers, people involved in trafficking, etc., has developed in the entire North-east with a different kind of stake in the existing social order. In this period there has been greater coordination of governance in different states of the North-east, inasmuch as there is greater coordination of military measures. The logistical expansion on the East will be based on this political economy of conflict and neo-liberal market expansion; therefore the question will be as to how much the two phenomena can remain independent of each other, and how one will impact on the other.  


There is a separate North-east window in almost every ministry in Delhi, and above all is the Ministry of Development of Northeast Region (DONER) to coordinate various welfare schemes, developmental programmes, and all other governmental policies and to guide the decisions of the Northeast Regional Council. One may thus say that the LE has come in the background of the emergence of a kind of social governance consisting of counter-insurgency measures and marketization of economic relations. The economic thrust known as the LE has as a strategy three components: (a) connecting the East firmly with the Northeast; (b) opening up villages and far-flung areas through new institutions (schools, colleges, banks, offices, communication networks) in the process releasing a new set of conflicts around massive displacements, homeland demands resulting in communal strife, anti-migrant measures, and ethnic policing; and (c) opening up to South East Asia, subsuming Bangladesh and Burma in this game, and increasing links with China from India’s own particular perspective. But this economic thrust also faces a situation of aporia that is to say, an unending cycle of production of nativity-linkages-marketization-immigration-nationalism-ethnicity-violence-law–linkages-marketization-immigration-nativity-nation-ethnicity…


Developed in recent history as what basically can be called an economy of ‘a market along the foothills’, which bears the characteristics of an extraction economy organized around coal and limestone, and a plantation economy around tea and timber, the entire scenario represents “an enclave economy”. Water has become the single most lucrative resource in the desperate governmental thinking on how to get out of the enclave called the North-east. Policy thinking has now concentrated on utilizing water in a commercial framework, developing the knowledge base of the water resources of the region, gaining a geomorphology perspective of the river Brahmaputra, the issue of living intelligently with floods’, inland water transport development in the North-east, institutional framework of river-basin management in the North-east, river basin organization for the Brahmaputra-Barak river basin, and finally management structures to lead the Brahmaputra river basin into the twenty-first century. The idea of enclave has also led to an unusual amount of policy deliberations on transport, linkages, and communication hubs. Each major town in the region wants to be the hub – Siliguri, Guwahati, Agartala, and Imphal, (with Chittagong in Bangladesh). The LE plan includes the project of the Asian Highway. The top priority of the State is on the improvement of the connectivity in the region along with development of cash crop farming, horticulture, and tourism. Projects being taken up specifically include such like the Mairang-Guwahati Airport Road, Jaintia Hills-North Cachar Road, Phulbari-Tura Road in Garo Hills and conversion of timber roads to pucca roads in rural areas. In Tripura pacification has accompanied the transition from “jhuming to tapping”, that is from shifting cultivation to rubber plantation activities.


Partly, this is also the now famous durable disorder thesis. The disorder is durable because it does not die. It actually symbolizes a particular state of balance, which modulates the way societies or the North-east as a whole want or need to be governed. This is a sort of neo-realism that spins the conventional governmental logic on its head, and suggests ways of prising open a supposedly locked situation. In this complex scenario, where the Indian story moves away in a direction different from the one said to be taken by several African countries, the critical factor has been the expansion of government in the past two decades, thereby marking again a different story of globalization and neo-liberalism in India. While part of this expansion is due to inevitable political reasons, such as expansion of the electoral system, setting up of institutions, increase of bureaucracy, etc., the instrument of budgets, too, has played a big role. Thus, gross transfers from the centre to the North-east States have counted for roughly 60 (Assam) to 85 per cent (Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh) of aggregate disbursements there. The arrival of social governance indicates such mutation both in the form of governmentality and resistance.


Social governance arrives not only on the basis of the market-money-finance network, but also by promoting what is termed ‘participatory governance’. The DONER ministry speaks of a citizen’s charter (2011-12), which is in its words a “client’s charter”. The client is also one of the stakeholders in the development of the North-east, others being the North-east State governments, central ministries/organizations and their enterprises, the North Eastern Council, civil society in the region, and finally not to be left out people of the North-east. The charter declares its aims: to accelerate the pace of socio-economic development of the region so that it may enjoy growth parity with the rest of the country; formulating policies for the rapid development of the region; intensive interventions with other central ministries/departments to spend 10 per cent of their gross budgetary support (GBS) for the development of the region; to develop infrastructure connectivity in a manner so as to mitigate the constraints towards the economic development of the region, and to strengthen institutions and augment capacity with a view to encouraging the flow of private investment to increase employment opportunities.


The Post-Conflict Subject of Logistical Governance


The final point in the note is: What is the likely nature of the emerging subject of this logistical governance?


Since in this case, logistical expansion is seen as a post-conflict measure, the mutation of the form of governance will depend on relevant governmental measures and the responses to them. The mutation will also depend on the condition of the middle spaces in conflicts. These will affect the prospect of logistical governance. Therefore, the question: If overall security reinforces ‘molecular insecurity’, how is one to build a model of ‘molecular security’ that facilitates expansion of market logistics?


Subjects may be unruly because they are not sufficiently globalized. They are products of a phenomenon called enclave. If they are to be made modern rational subjects, they have to be pulled by their bootstraps to the level of the global. The market becomes the key to such an exercise. But this course becomes a contradictory exercise, because if the post-conflict subject is to be rational, and for that only market-based norms can exist or be allowed to exist, then all other norms have to be destroyed. This also implies rational decisions (at all levels) to deploy violence to establish control. How can the government in that case do away with the original violence and become legitimate as a government of peace?


We are thus posing a particular way of posing the question of the ‘subject’ – the subject of logistics as a post-conflict measure and as a part of social governance. Logistical visions may fail if the situation on ground only produces fear, revulsion, anger, uncertainty, corruption, and a thin social layer connected to monetisation. But the situation can also produce a revised subjectivity that takes into account the strengths and weaknesses of the adversary. We can also note the recent peasant mobilizations in Assam by the Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti (led by Akhil Gogoi and others) or the environmental movements in the entire region. These new movements allow us a faint and an admittedly weak picture of that new kind of subjectivity.


To understand different components and profile of expansion of logistical spaces/visions of Look East Policy for East and North East India and South East Asia (For 2016)


Given the kind of perspective of an anomalous universe of logistics we can organize year wise the research in the following way:


For 2016

  •       Paper on India’s Look East (LE) Policy. The Paper will investigate the following research questions:

(a) What are the different components of the logistical visions relating to the LE policy in terms of it being beachhead for opening up the East and the Northeast to Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region?

(b) In what way can the LE policy can become the nodal point for both land and maritime new Silk Routes?

  • Paper on Kolkata as a logistical hub. The main research questions investigated will be:

(a) In what way does Kolkata (with its location as a port, railway, and road hub) become crucial for the new logistical vision?

(b) How does the existence of Bangladesh as an interruption in India’s land continuity predicate the logistical possibilities of Kolkata as an old colonial city and a logistical centre? (This will be discussed later in another paper more rigorously from a separate angle)

  • Paper on competing and complementing logistical spaces of India and China in Southeast Asia. Questions are:

(a) Can the logistical vision of China (with the new infrastructure bank and other initiatives) involving Burma, Nepal, and Bangladesh become mutually beneficial to both China and India, and to all these countries?

(b) What is the nature of complimenting and conflicting visions of India and China regarding the same logistical space given in particular the US strategy of “Pivot of Asia”?  

(c) The difference in logistical vision of India and China and the strategies to accomplish it. Especially the case of one belt one road strategy of China for the West and the North South Corridor through  Iran in the case of India which makes Central Asia crucial to the understanding of the logistical design. Similarly the US has its own ideas about linking South and Central Asia with Afghanistan as the fulcrum; thus the question: Can the logistical vision on India’s East be realized to an appreciable extent without a complementary design on India’s west and the north?

  • Paper on the contradiction between the “Bengal Question” and the India’s logistical expansion. Questions include:

(a) Without unsettling the seemingly settled questions in the East (such as re-addressing the “Bengal question” that is, resolving issues of Kolkata Port with two ports under its management, achieving synergy between Kolkata and Chittagong Ports, logistics of sharing of water, security cooperation, immigration problem, land corridor of Bangladesh with Nepal, reviving earlier inland water navigation routes), plus, stabilizing relations with Burma and China independent of US strategic preferences, can the logistical vision on the East materialize?

(b) The tortuous history of settling the “Bengal question” as congealed in the “Chicken’s neck” (the slice of land forming the land corridor between rest of India and the Northeast) involving immigration, trafficking in goods, services, labour and sex, securitization, land grab, development of Siliguri as a hub

  • Paper on migration, displacement, insurgency and labour which will be produced as a result of the above mentioned vision of logistical governance. Questions under consideration will include:

(a) What is the nature of the subject that logistical governance will produce in the wake of displacements and migrations (typically Rohingya refugee flows and migration from Bangladesh)) and likely dispossession in various forms?

(b) Infrastructural expansion will set in motion a massive influx of labour, both migrant and domestic. In the context of insurgent struggles in the Northeast what form will this dynamic of migration and struggle take and what will be the policy response at institutional and governmental levels? Intermittent killings of Bihari construction workers in Manipur are already a signal for further conflicts


For 2017


(B) To understand different components and profile of expansion of logistical spaces/visions of Look East Policy for East and North East India, South East Asia and North West India


In 2017 MCRG would like to propose an extension of the project where expanding Asian networks and mobilities will be examined in greater detail keeping in mind Indian policies towards its Southeastbut also the Asia Pacific on the one hand and upto the Mediterranean on the other. Here, the proposed Chinese maritime route (that will begin at Quanzhou, touch Guangzhou, Beihai and Haikou before heading south to the Malacca Strait and then from Kuala Lumpur move towards Kolkata, cross the northern Indian Ocean to Nairobi, Kenya move north around the Horn of Africa and through the Red Sea into the Mediterranean, with a stop in Athens before meeting the land-based Silk Road in Venice) will form the background against which Indian policies will be situated. According to China’s official discourse, the Maritime Silk Road (MSR) will bring ‘new opportunities and a new future to China and every country along the road that is seeking to develop’. India has been reticent in its response primarily owing to a lack of clarity on the ‘how’ and ‘what’ of China’s plans, and whether the MSR has a geo-economic rationale or a more security-oriented approach. Chinese officials themselves have only offered general contours of the MSR, ‘such as boosting regional maritime connectivity, and cooperation on disaster mitigation and fisheries development.’


Conceptually, the up-gradation of maritime connectivity between the Indo-Pacific and extending it further to East Africa and onto the Mediterranean is consistent with India’s own broader maritime economic vision.However, according to the prevalent view, MSR should be understood as part of a rising China’s attempt to ‘reorder Asia’ and ‘undermine American alliances’ in the region. It is argued that China is attempting to create trade and economic relationships with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) countries through trade, port and continental land bridges to countervail the United States (US) influence and to draw the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) littorals within its sphere of influence. Chinese proposals to develop Kunming Railway that will connect China–Singapore and other countries in Southeast Asia, as also the recently commissioned oil and gas pipelines and proposed railway line connecting the Rakhine coast of Myanmar with Kunming, underscore this thinking. The MSR proposalcompliments infrastructural initiatives and enables landlocked south-west China to access markets in Southeast Asia. Some analysts also locate the MSR as part of a Chinese reassurance posture to ‘diffuse the tension’ on China’s maritime periphery after a period of uncertainty over Chinese maritime behaviour. It is also viewed as a policy to complicate the US’ rebalancing strategy by ‘softening’ ASEAN elites renewed interest in reaching out to the US, Japan and perhaps, even India.


The Indian dilemma is as follows. The fact that China is promoting two corridors (continental and MSR) as part of its evolving regional geo-strategy and that ‘India lies on both the Maritime Silk Route and the Southern Silk Route’poses opportunities and challenges for India in light of other potentially alternative economic options via strategic partnerships with Japan and the US. For example, a refusal by India and the MSR’s acceptance by ASEAN and a majority of South Asian states would leave India as an outlier and send a clear signal of India being on the wrong side of China. This is perhaps further complicated by India’s own declared intent to attract massive Chinese investment capital in several industrial parks across the country. Such contradictions imply that India would take a hard look at the evolution of the MSR proposal since it cannot afford to be excluded from the emergence of a new geo-economic trend in Asia’s political economy. Analysts argue that India can, simultaneously, conceptualize other strategic options with Japan and ASEAN to present alternative regional initiatives or look for collaboration in organizations like the SCO. Given the pace of China’s MSR diplomacy, India must project its own ideas to influence the final contours of China’s initiative. If the MSR leads to important neighbours like Bangladesh and Sri Lanka drifting into the Chinese orbit, it would represent a serious setback to India’s traditional conception of the subcontinent as a privileged sphere. Because nearly every Indian neighbour in the IOR littoral already has strong economic ties with mainland China, the perception is that these smaller states are finding it difficult to resist internalizing Chinese norms for Asian security.


From India’s maritime and naval perspective, the full evolution of the MSR would compel her to develop additional access points and facilities astride the proposed Chinese MSR. The Modi government’s decision to expedite Indian involvement in the construction of Chabahar Port on Iran’s Makran coast could also have been partially driven by this quest to seek high-quality transit points in the IOR. Another implication is that India will need to invest more on long-haul vessels to ensure greater endurance and sustainability for its own power projection and expeditionary roles. Finally, there is an interesting contradiction in Indian perceptions of China’s continental Silk Road and the MSR. In recent years, China has been pushing for a land corridor—termed as Bangladesh–China– India–Myanmar Economic Corridor (BCIM-EC). The BCIM will connect India’s North-East with China’s Kunming province through road initially, and later, through rail connectivity. Initially, given India’s restive north-east and complex relations with Bangladesh and Myanmar, Delhi was lukewarm to the proposal despite an established track-2 BCIM dialogue. Delhi’s ‘reticence’ was because of two factors: ‘the fear of China’s economic domination of our border regions’ and ‘India’s nervousness about the physical security of its sensitive Northeast’. It can be argued, however, that if the BCIM corridor eventually fructifies, this would imply not only enhanced trade and connectivity but could also open the door for China to upgrade infrastructure in port facilities in Bangladesh and Myanmar, key hubs in a potential MSR. In other words, the BCIM would supplement the MSR enabling China an easier political opening in the Bay of Bengal. Nicholas Spykman once observed that ‘Every Foreign Office, whatever may be the atlas it uses, operates mentally with a different map of the world’. For the modern Indian state, it was recognized from the start that India was geopolitically located at the crossroads of several sub-regions. In Nehru’s words:” India is situated geographically in such a way that we just cannot escape anything that happens in Western Asia, in Central Asia, in Eastern Asia or South-East Asia.”. A rejuvenated China has kick-started what will probably be a decades-long process of constructing new lines of communication to the sub-regions of Eurasia. For China, it is incidental that India lies on the crossroads of Chinese Silk Routes. For India, however, this dynamic holds the potential to reshape its entire periphery and impact India’s own role in Southern Asia calling for enhanced engagement and expanded presence.


While expansion of trade and commercial links will follow the expanding networks the possibility of greater flows also brings to the forefront various positive and negative developments; on the one hand the development of certain centres as nodal in the process but also the possibilities of conflict and violence induced by uneven development. The transformation of certain cities from ‘frontier’ to ‘gateway’ cities and the subsequent emergence of borderlands as new markets call for alternative imaginings but also provide opportunities for new claims for place and belonging. These cities have become the starting point of all kinds of ventures, highways/car rallies/trade fairs and have become a ‘zones of potential’ where rising India’s power challenges that of China. India will confront the China led new globalization through infrastructural interventions not just on the eastern and north eastern borders of India with Bangladesh/Myanmar/Nepal and Bhutan but also on the western and northwestern border with Afghanistan/Pakistan and as an extension with the Central Asian states. While corridors are generally defined in linear terms as defined by dominant modes of transportation they also tend to deepen economic activity and create logistic hubs. One sign of this growing engagement will be the proliferation of special economic zones, industrial parks, transport hubs and other dedicated spaces that will create a new geography for organizing production, attracting investments and regulating the supply of labour. Greater connectivity between these nodes and the mainland would mean that the frontier would increasingly be transformed into a corridor. But logistics is more than simply connecting diverse firms and labour forces on the basis of cost calculations. Logistics also creates environments and subjectivities through co-ordination and optimization. Social governance therefore assumes relevance not just because of the expansion of labour forces but because infrastructural hardware (roads/pipelines/electricity grids/bridges) is particularly prone to disruption.


Another development that is increasingly becoming crucial is the collaboration among existing and emerging financial institutions which have sought co-financing, knowledge work, and joint policy dialogue with member countries. Institutions like the AIIB and the ADB undertake regular high-level consultations and joint data collection to promote the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and the COP21 climate agreement. ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is owned by 67 members—48 from the region. AIIB, located in Beijing, is a multilateral development bank that focuses on the development of infrastructure and other productive sectors in Asia, including energy and power, transportation and telecommunications, rural infrastructure and agriculture development, water supply and sanitation, environmental protection, urban development and logistics. ADB and AIIB are involved in co- financing in the road and water sectors. The first of these projects is expected to be Pakistan’s M4 highway project, a 64-kilometer stretch of motorway connecting Shorkot to Khanewal in Punjab Province. And as India becomes a part of a number of these financial institutions the necessity of a closer examination of their role in global financing of infrastructural projects will assume not just geo-economic but strategic importance. As trade flows compete with military power for influence; geo-politics becomes an extension of geo-economics and infrastructural developments and institutions assume increasing significance the 5 segments for 2017 will look into


 Research Segments


a.  In what way can the Look East policy  become the nodal point for both land and maritime new Silk Routes not just to the South East but extending to the Asia Pacific on one side and upto the Mediterranean on the other

b. Within this context examine a few frontier centres that could become nodal in terms of development (a)Two towns in the northeast  India (b) Two towns in Myanmar

c.  Conflict and social governance (a) examine new forms of political mobilizations that will obstruct the flow of the logistical apparatus and bring them into question (b) whether prolonged obstruction of logistical operations has evolved as a strategy of political action in Northeast (c)what can be the new forms of disruption of the new logistical apparatus? (d) in the background of past conflicts, what can be the policy responses?

d.   Interface of geo-economics and geopolitics through an examination of multilateral organizations like ASEAN and SCO which identify logistic and infrastructural as central and involve both India and China

e.  The development of financial institutions like AIIB/ADB/New Development Bank/SCO Development Bank on the one hand and  (b)  TPP/TTIP as global trade agreements that would have to take note of already existing Asian bilateral and multilateral free trade arrangements and special economic zones


Research into these questions will involve policy experts already formulating policies in the context as well as in-house researchers of MCRG based on their long and known work in North East and politics.


Goals and Objectives of the proposed project


To understand different components and profile of expansion of logistical spaces/visions of Look East Policy for East and North East India and South East Asia


Events and Activities 2017


Public Lectures

An attempt will be made to strengthening the network of concerned academics, activists and influence policy initiatives through the program of dialogues.  At least one public lecture on the theme will be organized in the course of the year open to a wider audience than the researchers and experts.

Workshops and dissemination

An attempt will be made to take note of new research and involve interlocutors from diverse backgrounds to critically evaluate the research. For this one research workshops will be organized; In addition the website, online blog and a Google group will be used as important tools for discussion, archiving, and interaction. It is hoped that this would lead to effective policy interventions. An attempt will be made to share abstracts, comments, reports of the public lectures and the workshops and other exchanges to the wider public for generating awareness.



Research material will be documented and archived in the CRG library with particular emphasis on collection of maps, reports, old documents and books and fieldwork material.


Field visits will be a significant part of the project in 2017. Fieldwork in border towns, frontier areas and logistic hubs will enhance the content of the research.


The segments will published by the end of the year as Policies and Practices and then select papers put together in book form.


For 2018

  • Based on the above mentioned findings, the third year will result in a theoretical study involving comparison of the logistical visions of India and China, and the complementary and the two different trajectories of India’s visions towards the East, Southeast Asia, and the Asia-Pacific on one hand and Central and West Asia on the other.7.  Methodology involved or activities to be undertaken

8. Target group(s)

  • intellectuals,

  • youth,

  • activists,

  • researchers

  • scholars

Activity i): to organize two consultative meetings on the first two years of the programme. It will have all the researchers under the project as participants who will present their concrete research plans. It will also have discussants/commentators for each paper from different parts of the country. The dialogic or consultative mode has enabled CRG in the past to finish with high quality research output. 

Output i): Minutes of the meeting and paper abstracts shall be uploaded on website for public dissemination

Activity ii): Three public lectures will be delivered in three years in three cities respectively, namely, Kolkata, Guwahati and Agartala, where experts on related themes will be invited to speak. It will be an open programme targeting the university students, researchers of this field, local experts, journalists, and anyone who is interested.

Output ii): Audio and video of the public lecture shall be uploaded for public dissemination.

Activity iii): At least one annual workshop. The aim of the annual workshop is to present the final outcomes of the research done in the respective years and also to get feedback from the experts in the field for revision and improvement. The workshop will be held for at least one day. Once again it will involve the researchers and the discussants. Every researcher will get six months for their research and two months for preparing the outcome in the form of a paper. The workshop will be held on the ninth month where discussants and the commentators will give their suggestions. The researchers will be given another 15 days to make necessary changes in the final outcome and submit the papers to CRG.

Output iii): Details of the workshop and paper summary to be uploaded, draft working papers to be submitted to RLS.

Activity iv): Given the international and cross-cultural impact of the project, the final conference will be an international event where all the researchers will present their final research. A call for paper will also be issued to invite other researchers on relevant themes. It will have speakers from different countries as discussants and commentators as well.

Output iv):  The working paper series will be brought out every year whereas the book will be published tentatively within one and a half year from the final conference.

Activity v): Conducting researches on the themes mentioned in the proposal. The time line of the same has also been shared. The research will be part desk based (library, archives, and news analysis) and part ethnographic involving select cases in the Northeast and North Bengal, Bangladesh, and Burma, and of course Kolkata; and all these will take place simultaneously; Desk based research should take about 10-12 months; the various ethnographic components should take about 5-6 months. In the second and third year the desk and the ethnographic work can be combined.

Output v): There will be series of working papers published in CRG’s journal Policies and Practices. CRG will also try to bring out special issues in reputed journals consisting research from the project. It will also try to bring out a volume of papers from the project as well as papers presented at the final conference towards the end of the project in collaboration with a reputed publishing concern. As CRG believes in open research, it strives for publicizing and dissemination of all its research findings and that defines the agenda of all its publication. The number of issues of Policies and Practices is 200 and the volume will have at least 500 copies in its first print. It will have both black and white and colour pages and will consist numerous maps and pictures from the areas under study.     

  • The research (resulting in nine papers) and comprising the above mentioned research questions will take three years and will include two consultative meetings in the beginnings of the first and second year, two annual workshops to evaluate and improve the research, and one conference in the third year;

  • The consultative workshops will be held with the second or third month of the research year, the two annual workshops  in the ninth or tenth month of the respective years, and the conference may be held around the middle of the third year;

  • The research will be part desk based (library, archives, and news analysis) and part ethnographic involving select cases in the Northeast and North Bengal, Bangladesh, and Burma, and of course Kolkata; and all these will take place simultaneously;

  • Desk based research should take about 10-12 months; the various ethnographic components should take about 5-6 months. In the second and third year the desk and the ethnographic work can be combined.

  • The work will need two full time analyst cum investigators for three years and three part time investigators for ten months (five months of field work and one month for writing the field reports); apart from this we will have two research assistants.

  • Geographers, area studies specialists, sociologists, ethnologists, gender and indigenous peoples’ rights activists, and communications and logistics specialists will be part of the planning meeting and the conference;

  • The work will produce maps, research papers, journal articles, web-entries, documentation, volume publication, and besides all these an archive of various primary documents and new reports that will give us a long picture of a developing logistical vision as well the anomaly and conflicts in this vision. There will be also policy briefs by CRG scholars involved in studying the policy regime on logistics.

  • The work will also result in a network of scholars, policy researchers, and public intellectuals, and peace activists in the region.

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@2009 Mahanirban Calcutta Research Group