By Amar Yumnam
It is good that Ibobi has come back from Tokyo, without further proceeding to Europe and others. It is a case of good sense prevailing upon our leader. So we should give him the credit for that.
We also know that he left Manipur for a tour abroad at a very wrong time. But on his return he has related to the people once again the evergreen intentions for Manipur of the Japanese. What is of interest in this and with positive implications at that is the Chief Minister of Manipur taking initiatives on his own to visit a foreign country for economic reasons. All along we have been used to the feature of our political leaders flocking only to Delhi and request for funds. Even worse, one mind-set of these have been to ask for the funds and look for possibilities for extraction of maximum personal share from the “utilisation” of these. If what Ibobi says of the purpose and achievement of his trip to the East Asian country, it signifies a paradigmatic change in the approach of our political leaders to development interventions for Manipur.
Wish Were True: We indeed certainly wish all the rationale and claims of the leader of the people of Manipur about his recent trip to Japan were true. Besides paradigmatic change it signifies, it also buttresses two other very important issues. It conveys to the government at the centre that the State is ready and capable of mobilising international investment. Secondly, it displays in real sense of the term an understanding of the compulsions of Manipur to link to the growth dynamics of the countries in the East and South East Asia. Given the geography, institutional affinities, cultural closeness and manifestations of important ethos, the land and people of Manipur have necessarily to look at these countries for a long term and sustainable solution to the economic problems of the State.
In fact, with the globalisation forces pushing from the direction of these countries and India being increasingly compelled to link to these economies to cater to her developmental needs, Manipur should now apply her mind in how to take advantage of the challenges going to be thrown up by these processes. We should now be seriously revisiting our social sector and infrastructural policies in order to convert the oncoming challenges into opportunities. We have already spent a long time too far without ever applying our mind to the contextual needs of dovetailing the policies and programmes emanating from the Centre to our needs. The recent unilateral trip by Ibobi signifies a fresh start to review this tradition.
Three More: Now that Ibobi has shown his willingness and even action to go for steps which genuinely address the developmental needs of Manipur by going beyond the schemes of Delhi, there is need for taking his initiative to further logical steps forward. First, he must now initiate steps without further delay for linking the economy of Manipur to the economies of South East Asia. We cannot have a meaningful economic relationship with countries of the East Asia by bypassing South East Asia. The economists in these countries find the North East, and more significantly at that Manipur, the “missing link” in their grand designs for a dynamic Asia. Ibobi should now be the pioneer political leader from the region who really attends to and initiates steps for converting this missing link to a vibrant link.
Secondly, there is the approach of the government of India who thinks anyone from the North East, who talks of East Asia and South East Asia, as anti-national or at best as suspicious character. Ibobi should now be able to lead his people to make the Centre to “revisit” their outlook to the people of Manipur.
Third, there is the case of the Bangladesh. Our linking up with the South East and East Asia would not bear the expected fruit if the linkages do not get extended to Bangladesh and beyond to the “mainland” India. In this Ibobi can play an active role as a catalyst for altering the mind-set of India and look at Bangladesh as a potent economic partner. If this could be achieved, the region would not only emerge as a vibrant economic zone, but would also be a politically stable one.
The ultimate question however remains if Ibobi can rise to the occasion and take his recent manoeuvres to their logical conclusions. Or would he also go down in history as just one of those who just ruled but did not achieve? The choice is his.
Camp: Sikkim University Guest House,Gangtok.