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IIT-G organises national seminar on sub-regional cooperation

 GUWAHATI, Feb 20 - The Indian Institute of Technology Guwahati (IIT-G) in association with the Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Kolkata Chapter, organised a national seminar titled ‘Sub-Regional Cooperation: BIMSTEC and North East India in Perspective’, at IIT-G on February 19 and 20, said a press release.

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, former Indian Ambassador to Thailand and former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, emphasised the fact that Bangladesh is as an integral part of the regional/sub-regional cooperation.

Prasanta Jyoti Baruah, Executive Editor of The Assam Tribune, noted that India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy is a positive sign but old distrust, lingering political, social and security issues continue to pose themselves as stumbling blocks. These have to be overcome through judicious and pragmatic resolution of issues in order to pave the way for smooth economic cooperation and development among the member states.

Jaideep Saikia, who formerly served at the National Security Council Secretariat, while chairing the inaugural session, said that there is a need for a new de-centralised security architecture in the North East that would also comprise the nations that embrace the strategically situated North East. He recommended creation of a joint task force comprising Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and affected states of the North East in order to define, plan and undertake joint operations against fundamentalist groups such as JMB and HUJI (B) as well as ethnic insurgencies.

Saikia said real time growth and development would take place in the North East only if the mantra of ‘organise, subsidise, enterprise North East goods across the Bay of Bengal and beyond’ is operationalised.

Lt Gen (retd) Subrata Saha, former Deputy Chief of Army Staff and present member of NSAB, delivered a special lecture on security and governance. He emphasised that BIMSTEC has to overcome several challenges for stability of India’s North East.

Invited speakers from ORF, Kolkata; IIT-G and GU delivered lectures on food, technology, livelihoods, trans-boundary connectivity. One of the speakers, noted how multimodal transport infrastructure and connectivity is key to boosting international trade and economic growth.

The speakers also discussed the possible bottlenecks that need to be identified to mitigate the challenges of development through sub-regional cooperation in the NE region. The session on food, technology and livelihoods also discussed techniques of plant tissue culture to improve food production.

Dr R Bedamatta of IIT-G discussed livelihood stress in the states of North East India. Noted journalist Mrinal Talukdar spoke about the public narratives of the North East India that have been anti-Bangladesh. He said efforts have to be made in this direction to bridge the gap.

Convenor of the seminar Dr Pahi Saikia, Associate Professor of political science, IIT-G, highlighted the importance of India’s strategic relations with its eastern neighbours in the Bay of Bengal sub-region. Prof Saikia highlighted the need to understand the internal contradictions in India’s North East.

A book titled India Myanmar borderlands: Ethnicity, Security and Connectivity authored and edited by Dr Pahi Saikia and Dr Anasua Basu Ray Chaudhury, was released at the seminar.

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