By Amar Yumnam
Manipur is very different from Delhi or Maharashtra. Both of the latter do not have dynamic and competing neighbours. On the contrary, Manipur is going to be surrounded sooner than later by economies absolutely dynamic and competitive globally in every sense of the term. When the Look East Policy gains momentum, to which India has no alternative, Manipur would be very close to the centres of contemporary intellectual, technological and economic dynamics of the world today. The two universities in Bangkok are at the core of global rankings. So do the institutes in South Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan. There are institutes in Indonesia (a country coming of late to the centre of international economic and political game), Philippines and Malaysia which are definitely more robust than those in India. Above all, the region would be close to the country of the largest magnificent dynamics today, China. When it comes to China, it is a country which beats India today academically, technologically and political economically. Given the unfolding larger Asian strategy and the imperatives for India for injecting a new dynamics to her economy, there is no alternative to strong economic and technological ties with South East and East Asia, particularly China. I say particularly China because no other country in the region has as dynamic, impactful and meaningful techno-intellectual change happening as in this country. With India circumstantially compelled to dovetail her policies to this changing scenario, and endeavouring to get closer to the dynamics of South East and East Asia, the earlier approach of side-lining the North East and her interests would no longer serve the purpose and would not be fruitful either. The North East and particularly Manipur have to play a major role in evolving the needed policy for India for engaging fruitfully with the countries in South East and East Asia.
It is exactly here that Manipur should assert and play the role demanded by the contextual realities. India has so far betrayed the inability to move beyond the security perspective, particularly involving the North East, and has utterly failed to put the development compulsions of the North East while articulating relationships with the South East and the East Asia. Now the onus is on Manipur to make good this weakness, and serve the cause of India by evolving a meaningful policy framework for dealing with these countries in the East and the South East of Asia. Here we may note the wonderful linkage which academics in China has established with the economic dynamics of the Chinese society. While we may ignore what had happened in the past in Beijing and Shanghai, we can ignore at our own cost the dynamics in play in the province nearest to us, viz., Yunnan. Before we can digest it, we are going to be opened to the challenges of the dynamics in this country and the province. So the immediacy is there for Manipur to rise to the occasion. Education and academics in Manipur has to move beyond the mentality of the contractors and include academics in the definition of Development unlike the present confinement to digging and filling drains, selective tiling of office rooms and execution of education policies as like hand-outs of favouritism. While Delhi and Mumbai can go on with their own prevailing tempo of education and academic dynamics, Manipur, fortunately or unfortunately, does not have the privilege of enjoying this luxury; the challenge is such that, once the larger global relationships materialise, her academics and education would become absolutely irrelevant if the present approaches continue and capability remains as it is today.
While academics and technological capability enhancement would be a priority in this preparation of Manipur and India for meaningful and beneficial interactions with South East and East Asia, there is also the necessity of preparing Manipur in other dimensions of valuable global interactions.
Here I would like to reflect on two visits to two places in the last two Sundays in Manipur. One is to the Kakching Garden and another to the Khuga Dam. The Kakching Garden of which I have heard of for some time and which I never thought of visiting for I was afraid it might confirm the Manipur character of not living up to the competitive expectations of the world today. I must say that I have been proved wrong and very pleasantly at that. This gives the kind of pleasant and unexpected satisfaction that all of us can be rightfully proud of it in Manipur. This has the potential to emerge as one of the important domestic and international tourist destinations, and based in Manipur. The second one is the Khuga Dam. A visit to this immediately took me to the memory of a good friend of mine who was a minister but now only a Member of the Assembly. This dam immediately gives the feeling that development is not all absent in Manipur, and stands out as a symbol of modern development happening in Manipur. But unfortunately it stops at that. The landscape is so enticing that it could be evolved into a major tourist destination, but today it gives the impression of non-maintenance of the surroundings. I told my family that, if it were given to the Chinese, it would be all surrounded by flowery beauties and tree surroundings instead of the view of terrace burning.
What we now observe and experience today in Manipur is just time-serving and adoption of contractor approach to addressing the social and economic needs of the society. This is an example which can lead to what the Roman civilisation had experienced centuries back and the Muslim period had ultimately met. Time is now for Manipur to comprehensively prepare herself and evolve policies for the unfolding relationships with South East and East Asia so that she contributes towards two outcomes. First, time is now for Manipur to meaningfully contribute to the Indian framing of policies for deeper relationships with these countries. Secondly, she should now prepare herself economically and socially sustainable position than she is now in the emerging context of the global framework. Manipur should now seize the future.