Home Contact Us  

India - Articles

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
#4181, 15 November 2013

J&K, Northeast, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu...

Regional Aspirations and National Interests
D Suba Chandran

Are the regional aspirations in India essentially against the national interests? Or, is there a huge gap between the two, that the successive governments and political parties both at the national and regional levels have failed to address?

While the current focus is on the foreign policy disaster in terms of Indian Prime Minister not attending the CHOGM in Sri Lanka due to pressure from Tamil Nadu, this is not a new trend. Earlier, West Bengal asserted itself against a similar visit to Dhaka. While the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is behind Tamil Nadu’s present pressure, West Bengal used the sharing of Teesta river waters as an issue, thereby in both cases damaging Indo-Sri Lankan and Indo-Bangladesh relations. 

While it needs a separate analysis on the merits and problems of the above two, the larger question is: do the sub-regions and the rest of nation understand each other? True India is a huge country with different regions, which in turn are heterogeneous. But, is India not also a democracy and federal, both being sanctified by the Constitution and considered as fundamental by the learned Supreme Court? Is it not the essential functionality of a democracy and federation to ensure that the regions and the rest of nation are on the same page?

Certainly, the size of India and its heterogeneous nature cannot be seen as a problem; perhaps, it could be perceived as an excuse, as it has been done by successive governments since independence. The problems between the regions and the nation are elsewhere.

First and foremost, it is the failure of governments at the national level, irrespective of whichever political party was leading the Parliament in New Delhi. The government, its cabinet and the Prime Minister in particular should have been the biggest bridge between the centre and the regions. It is a biggest irony in India that for the government, cabinet and the Prime Minister, the regions are last in their priorities. Worse, at times, they were never even in the list of priorities. How else can one explain the dis-connect between the different governments, and at times even within the same government?

Take the case of Dr Manmohan Singh, for example and his interest vis-a-vis J&K. What has happened between 2007 and 2013 to his approach? What did the region expect from him when he appointed those five working groups and inaugurate the cross-LoC bus service? What happened to the Round Table Conferences that he himself inaugurated?

The interest of the Centre and its priorities are the primary problem for creating the dis-connect between the nation and the regions. The regions rightly feel sidelined, ignored and overlooked. The case is same in the Northeast, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu.

Second, the coalition politics, undoubtedly exerts a pressure in the communication between the regions and Centre. Sri Lankan Tamil issue was not new; the entire community was under pressure and prosecution in Sri Lanka by successive governments and especially under the present Rajapakse government. But, why is that it has become an issue today, and not few years ago? As long as the DMK was a part of the coalition, there was a better understanding between New Delhi and Chennai. Worse, as long as the cases of corruption by its own MPs, the DMK went slow in pressurizing New Delhi. Today, there is an ADMK government in Tamil Nadu, and the Sri Lankan Tamil issue is an important emotional issue that the political parties are using to gain narrow political mileage within the State.

The coalition politics, and the internal politics within the States, thus do play a role in creating an emotional gap between the State and Centre. In the process, it also creates a gap between the societies.

Third, the failure of governance and the high level of corruption in the regions/States play an important role in the State government blaming the Centre for all the ills. Consider the case of the Northeast; in particular, Nagaland and Manipur are ruled by the underground, where the militant groups openly “collect” a percentage as “tax” even from the government officials! Goods cannot move easily from one part to the other, without “paying” at the multiple unofficial checkposts managed by the non-State actors. Funds and goods from rest of India reaches the State; but, there is an organized underground, which takes it and distributes itself. As a result, the common man suffers immensely and is extremely angry about the present situation.

The State governments in the Northeast are only happy to shift the blame on the Centre. The Centre is well aware of the problem, but it is also a part of the problem, as there is an unholy nexus between the bureaucracy, political leaders and the underground. If the States are shifting the blame on the Centre, the latter is only interested in maintaining the status quo

Fourth, the national media, especially the electronic media is jingoistic and irresponsible, in terms of projecting the regional issues and aspirations, as if only few States around Delhi constitute the Indian nation! If the national media is jingoistic, the regional media is narrowly focussed. Whether it is firing across the LoC, or Teesta river, or the Tamil issue, one could easily observe a pattern in how the regional and national media sees the problem and projects the same.

Besides the media, the research institutions and think tanks at the national and regional levels have a role to play. Again, it is unfortunate, that there are not many think tanks and research institutes at the national level understand the regional aspirations. On the other side, it is equally unfortunate, there are not many quality research institutions and think tanks in the States and regions, that could project their aspirations and alternative approaches.

Finally the role of Members of Parliament. For example, when it comes to India’s Lookeast Policy, everyone in the Northeast complain that the Center is insensitive to the regional interests and overlook the region. Perhaps, this perception is even true. But how many Members of Parliament from the Northeast have raised this issue in a sustained manner and articulated what the region wants, and how it would like to play a positive role. What is the primary purpose of MPs? How effective they are in terms of being a bridge between the region/State and the rest of India?

There is an all round failure and all of us are suffering. How to ensure that the nation and region perceives that their interests are not antithetical, but complimentary? Can the nation move forward without taking the regions along? And can the regions move forward if they want to leave a negative impact on the rest of nation?
By arrangement with Rising Kashmir 

Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
IPCS Columnists
Af-Pak Diary
D Suba Chandran
Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues
Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?
The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani
Big Picture
Prof Varun Sahni
Understanding Democracy and Diversity in J&K
When Xi Met Modi: Juxtaposing China and India
Pakistan?s Tactical Nuclear Weapons: The Inevitability of Instability

Dateline Colombo

Asanga Abeyagoonasekera.
Sri Lanka: Moving Towards a Higher Collective Outcome
The Importance of Electing the Best to our Nation's Parliament
Sri Lanka: Toward a Diaspora Re-Engagement Plan
Dateline Islamabad
Salma Malik
Pakistan's Hurt Locker: What Next?
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
India-Pakistan Relations in 2015: Through a Looking Glass
Dhaka Discourse
Prof Delwar Hossain
IPCS Forecast: Bangladesh in 2015
18th SAARC Summit: A Perspective from Bangladesh
Bangladesh in Global Forums: Diplomacy vs. Domestic Politics
Eagle Eye
Prof Chintamani Mahapatra
India-US: Significance of the Second Modi-Obama Meet
Has President Obama Turned Lame Duck?
Modi-Obama Summit: Criticism for Criticism?s Sake?

East Asia Compass
Dr Sandip Mishra
India-Japan-US Trilateral: India?s Policy for the Indo-Pacific
China-South Korea Ties: Implications for the US Pivot to Asia
Many ?Pivots to Asia?: What Does It Mean For Regional Stability?
Himalayan Frontier
Pramod Jaiswal
Nepal?s New Constitution: Instrument towards Peace or Catalyst to Conflict?
IPCS Forecast: Nepal in 2015
Constitution-making: Will Nepal Miss its Second Deadline?

Prof Shankari Sundararaman
IPCS Forecast: Southeast Asia in 2015
Indonesia's Pacific Identity: What Jakarta Must Do in West Papua
Modi in Myanmar: From ?Look East? to ?Act East?
Sushant Sareen
IPCS Forecast: Pakistan in 2015
Islamic State: Prospects in Pakistan
Pakistan: The Futility of Internationalising Kashmir

Looking East
Wasbir Hussain
Myanmar in New Delhi's Naga Riddle
China: ?Peaceful? Display of Military Might
Naga Peace Accord: Need to Reserve Euphoria
Maritime Matters
Vijay Sakhuja
Indian Ocean: Modi on a Maritime Pilgrimage
Indian Ocean: Exploring Maritime Domain Awareness
IPCS Forecast: The Indian Ocean in 2015

Nuke Street
Amb Sheelkant Sharma
US-Russia and Global Nuclear Security: Under a Frosty Spell?
India's Nuclear Capable Cruise Missile: The Nirbhay Test
India-Australia Nuclear Agreement: Bespeaking of a New Age
Red Affairs
Bibhu Prasad
Countering Left Wing Extremism: Failures within Successes
Return of the Native: CPI-Maoist in Kerala
The Rising Civilian Costs of the State-Vs-Extremists Conflict

Regional Economy
Amita Batra
India and the APEC
IPCS Forecast: South Asian Regional Integration
South Asia: Rupee Regionalisation and Intra-regional Trade Enhancement
South Asian Dialectic
PR Chari
Resuming the Indo-Pak Dialogue: Evolving a New Focus
Defence Management in India: An Agenda for Parrikar
Pakistani Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan: Implications for Asian Security

Spotlight West Asia
Amb Ranjit Gupta
Prime Minister Modi Finally Begins His Interaction with West Asia*
A Potential Indian Role in West Asia?
US-GCC Summit: More Hype than Substance
Strategic Space
Manpreet Sethi
India-Russia Nuclear Vision Statement: See that it Delivers
Global Nuclear Disarmament: The Humanitarian Consequences Route
Nasr: Dangers of Pakistan's Short Range Ballistic Missile

The Strategist
Vice Admiral Vijay Shankar
Jihadi Aggression and Nuclear Deterrence
The Blight of Ambiguity
Falun Gong: The Fear Within

OTHER REGULAR contributors
Gurmeet Kanwal
Harun ur Rashid
N Manoharan
Wasbir Hussain
Rana Banerji
N Manoharan

Ruhee Neog
Teshu Singh
Aparupa Bhattacherjee
Roomana Hukil
Aparupa Bhattacherjee

Related Articles
Pramod Jaiswal,
"Constituent Assembly-II: Rifts Emerging," 3 February 2014
Roomana Hukil,
"India & Bangladesh: A Breakthrough in Water Relations?," 30 November 2013
N Manoharan,
"CHOGM, India and Sri Lanka: New Delhi’s Missed Opportunities," 14 November 2013
V Suryanarayan,
"Sri Lanka: Should India Boycott the Commonwealth Meeting?," 15 October 2013

Browse by Publications

Issue Briefs 
Special Reports 
Research Papers 
Seminar Reports 
Conference Reports 

Browse by Region/Countries

East Asia 
South Asia 
Southeast Asia 
US & South Asia 

Browse by Issues

India & the world  
Naxalite Violence 
Suicide Terrorism 
Peace & Conflict Database 
Article by same Author
Will the Genie Want to Go Back?

The Fall of Rajapaksa: Why Democracies Fail Strongmen

Pakistan: The Military Courts

From Kashmir to Kabul

A Fractured Mandate: The Big Picture

And Now, They Are Coming For Our Children

Pak-Afghan Reset: Will the Taliban and al Qaeda follow?

Resetting Kabul-Islamabad Relations: Three Key Issues

Rise India, avoid regional pitfalls

Foreign Fighters of Pakistan: Why Pashtuns and Punjabis?

Can Pakistan Reset its Relations with Afghanistan?

The New Afghanistan: Four Major Challenges for President Ghani

Narendra Modi and Xi Jinping: Strong Leaders, Hard Issues

Pakistan: The Coup that didn’t take

Pakistan: Crouching Democrats, Hidden Khakis

Processes at the cost of peace?

Cost of Peace

Rise of Democratic Anarchists

Don’t steal the election now

Mullah Fazlullah: Challenges to the “Eliminate or Extradite” Approach

The Tahirul Qadri Affair

Dhaka as the Gateway to India’s Look East Policy

Modi, Sharif and the Cross-LoC Interactions

Region by Sub-regions

Civil-Military Equations in Pakistan: Que Sera Sera

Y! MyWeb
Print Bookmark Email Facebook Subscribe
Year 2018
 January  February
 2017  2016  2015  2014  2013  2012  2011  2010
 2009  2008  2007  2006  2005  2004  2003  2002
 2001  2000  1999  1998  1997

The Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies (IPCS) is the premier South Asian think tank which conducts independent research on and provides an in depth analysis of conventional and non-conventional issues related to national and South Asian security including nuclear issues, disarmament, non-proliferation, weapons of mass destruction, the war on terrorism, counter terrorism , strategies security sector reforms, and armed conflict and peace processes in the region.

For those in South Asia and elsewhere, the IPCS website provides a comprehensive analysis of the happenings within India with a special focus on Jammu and Kashmir and Naxalite Violence. Our research promotes greater understanding of India's foreign policy especially India-China relations, India's relations with SAARC countries and South East Asia.

Through close interaction with leading strategic thinkers, former members of the Indian Administrative Service, the Foreign Service and the three wings of the Armed Forces - the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force, - the academic community as well as the media, the IPCS has contributed considerably to the strategic discourse in India.

Subscribe to Newswire | Site Map
18, Link Road, Jungpura Extension, New Delhi 110014, INDIA.

Tel: 91-11-4100-1902    Email: officemail@ipcs.org

© Copyright 2018, Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies.