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A Scenario-Building Method on India’s North East: Time Horizon 2015

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  • March 27, 2009
    Fellows' Seminar
    Only by Invitation
    1030 to 1300 hrs

    Chair: Prakash Singh
    Discussants: G. D. Bakshi and Arun Sahgal

    In her presentation titled ‘A Scenario-Building Method on India’s North East’, Dr. Namrata Goswami projected the vision of a peaceful and prosperous North East India by 2015. Identifying terrorism, left-wing extremism and insurgencies as the three great internal security threats of India, she repeated Manmohan Singh’s earlier statement that growing insurgencies in the North East are caused by lack of development and externally funded terrorism. Dr. Goswami has utilized the scenario building method pioneered by Herman Kahn of RAND. She identifies the key factors/drivers which can be utilized to perceive and describe, if not predict, four future scenarios in the Northeast by 2015. Before explaining the four scenarios, Dr Goswami points out the advantages as well as disadvantages of the scenario building method. According to her, despite the fact that scenario-building is one of the most widely accepted method of bringing about some true sense of a possible future, the future based on such method still remains imagined and fictitious.

    While explaining the future scenario of North East India on the basis of scenario building method, Dr. Goswami offers a list of positive and negative drivers which can either lead the region on the path of prosperity or can prove as impediments in its progress. On the positive side, she points to factors like the region’s richness in natural resources, cultural heritage, the growing number of youthful population, higher level of education, influence of local communities and music in life, governance, etc. Factors like backward condition of transportation and communication, perceived feelings of neglect by New Delhi, cultural differences, rising ethnic violence, negative political culture, militarization of political culture, rampant extortion network, economic backwardness, porous international border, etc., are pointed out as negative drivers.

    On the basis of the above mentioned drivers, Dr. Goswami has put forward four possible scenarios of North East India by 2015. They are: Destination North East: A Touristic Paradise (a scenario based on tourism development); Island North East: Beware imagined ‘others’ (a scenario based on fear of domination and ethnic violence); Multi-Cultural North East: Liberal and Progressive (a scenario based on the success of democracy); Global North East: Looking ‘East’ with Hope (a scenario based on the success of India’s ‘Look East’ policy). Among the four, Dr. Goswami considers the first, third and the fourth scenarios as ‘ideal’ to improve the conflict ridden states of the Northeast.

    Points raised during the discussion of the Paper:

    • The paper should be based more on certain pattern based prediction rather than single event prediction.
    • In scenario construction, more than eight possible scenarios should be taken up. After discarding some of those scenarios due to their consistent inconsistency, four to five scenarios should be finally taken up for scenario building.
    • Instead of making the scenario building method so much RAND centric, the scenarios should be based on the method adopted by certain private companies.
    • An explanation of the process of scenario building in the paper will be helpful.
    • As a choice of tool for scenario building method, net assessment technique is ideal, as it helps crystallize the scenario.
    • Along with internal factors, geo-political factors too should be taken into account. As part of the geo-political factors, Chinese arms supply to insurgent groups in the Northeast, growing security threat from HUJI, etc. should be incorporated.
    • It is necessary to have an in depth study of growing Islamic fundamentalism as part of insurgency situation within Northeast.
    • Since many of the positive drivers mentioned in the paper can be negative drivers in other contexts (e.g., governance), a clear stance on the matter is necessary.
    • The status quo will probably persist for some time in the Northeast.
    • As long as extortion in Northeast India continues, achieving the desirable goal of disarmament, demobilization and rehabilitation (DDR) will not be possible. As a result, trade and tourism, the two sectors which constitute a significant part of the paper, will suffer.
    • Political resolutions, so far, have not been very successful in bringing down the insurgency problem in the North East region. Under the circumstance, if armed forces are pulled out from the region, insurgency will, once again, increase.
    • Greater academic emphasis should be put on the strong historical linkages between the Northeast and the rest of India.
    • Focus on factors like what exactly is the subject for whom the scenario is built; identification of key decisive factors; identification of drivers and their classification, will make the paper all the more interesting.
    • Both actors as well as issues can be treated as drivers.
    • As far as Northeast India is concerned, factors like scale of insurgency, cross border support for insurgency, cross border migration, transport and communication, state of economy, etc., can be treated as potential drivers.
    • Local cottage industry, progress of Northeastern youths in sports and positive governance in Sikkim should be incorporated as positive drivers.
    • Progressive change in politics, such as through bringing about changes in labour laws, opening for outside work force, enhancement of education, increase in resource base, etc., can be quite helpful in improving the situation of the Northeast.
    • Indian government’s future approach to its so called ‘Look East policy’ will depend on factors like degree of economic and social integration through communication revolution and softening of borders, lack of infrastructural developments coupled with political and economic concerns.
    • The possibility of a peaceful and prosperous Northeast within the short timeframe of five years is unrealistic. Instead, the timeframe should be extended to 2050.
    • The possibility of enduring peace in the region will depend upon the insurgency situation. The level of insurgency has already reduced in the region. Influence of Naga insurgency, which used to be considered as mother of all other insurgencies in the Northeast is no longer evident. Insurgent groups seem to be still working in this region, particularly for monetary benefits rather than demand for autonomy.
    • With good governance, backed by insistence on accountability, peace can be brought to Northeast region.

    Prepared by Pranamita Baruah, Research Assistant at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi.