Looking East Via Moreh: Prospects and Challenges for the Kukis

in N. Haokip & M. Lunminthang (eds.) The Kuki Society: Past, Present and Future. New Delhi: Maxford, 2011, pp. 190-202.

The division of British India and the then Burma in 1937, the hardening of international borders since 1947 and the subsequent disruption of old trade routes by the colonial rulers, India’s import substitution economy after 1947 deprived the trans-border communities in Northeast India of its natural markets. Of late, there has been much talk about the potential of India’s Look East policy in transforming the region. The inclusion of the Northeast as an important component of this policy in 2003 is dubbed as the new paradigm of development in the northeast development perspective. The policy envisages the region not as the periphery of India, but as the centre of a thriving and integrated economic space. Thus, it is seen as an excellent opportunity to integrate not only with Indian mainland economy but also with India’s neighbouring countries. Within the overall framework of development of the Northeastern region through the Look East policy, Moreh has a special place as the first and only thriving trading point in the region. The vicinity of Moreh is inhabited by the Kukis on both side of the international border and there exist a vast potential for development through border trade. Despite such proposition, what happens on the ground is a different story. Therefore, it is pertinent to find who actually reaps these benefits and what impact does border trade have on the livelihoods and identities of people in the border areas. The present paper therefore attempts to analyse the prospects and challenges of India’s Look East policy in the context of the Kukis.

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