Role of Historical Legacy in India’s Relations with Territories to its East

Dr. Udai Bhanu Singh is Senior Research Associate at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • July 2015
    Review Essay

    The ability of history to intrude into the present has often been underestimated. Nowhere is this more evident than in India’s relations with territories to its immediate east. Colonial rule by the British in Northeast India and Myanmar left a lasting impact on the two countries, which is felt to this day. Japanese control of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands also left its own historical imprint.

    Geography is an important determinant of the fate of Northeast India and Myanmar. Colonial/ruling powers, whether British or Japanese, realised the significance of Manipur on the one hand and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands—the ‘Indian Bastille’—on the other. However, contrary to popular perception, geography is not such an insurmountable obstacle. Population movements and trade flourished in the past and even today Moreh-Tamu has a flourishing barter trade in goods. Geography is often blamed for underdevelopment when political manipulation and artificially created borders are actually the real problem.