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RLA Press Release – The Siang Dialogue 1.0 – Session 1 (The Namsai Note)

8th December 2023

Red Lantern Analytica is organizing their annual event called “The Siang Dialogue 1.0” in virtual mode between 8th to 10th December. The three-day event has been named in reverence after the Siang River, which not only forms the economic, cultural and ecological bedrock of the region but also irrigates life by providing Brahmaputra a bulk of its water. Thus, supporting life to millions in India and Bangladesh. It had its inaugural Session “The Namsai Note” on 8th December 2023. This event aims to stimulate discussions involving general public and policy makers alike towards the strategic importance of attending to India’s neighborhood in the Indian subcontinent and will also involve in-depth discussions on India’s north-east region.

Not many know that the sixth Dalai Lama was born in India’s Tawang region of Arunachal Pradesh in 1682.  Also, that the mighty Brahmaputra derives its might from the river Siang which flows in Arunachal. Covering many such interesting facets was the first session – The Namsai Note, deriving its name from the place having the largest Buddhist monastery in North East India.

The speakers for the session were Shri Ninong Ering, MLA from Arunachal Pradesh, Dr. Sriparna Pathak, Associate Professor at O.P. Jindal Global University; Dr. Rajiv Nayan, Senior Research Associate at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies & Analyses, Dr. Shrabana Barua, Research Fellow at the Indian Council of World Affairs, and Ms. Namrata Hasija, Research Fellow at Centre for China Analysis and Strategy.

Mr. Ninong Ering thanked RLA for taking up such an important topic and wished all the very best for the success of the conference. He shared how the North East Region is of great importance for India strategically and geopolitically as there is growing influence of the region for the world.

Dr. Sriparna Pathak elaborated on the details of the topic in great depth and its impact on the Northeast. She talked about how China is weaponizing water.  She said that the control of water by upper riparian China, leads to devastation in lower riparian regions of India. “In 2017 during the Doklam crisis, China did not provide information about the hydrological data of Brahmaputra river which originates from Tibet. However, the information was shared with Bangladesh. The consequence of this can be seen in the floods that wreaked havoc in 2017,” she said. China has been exploring natural resources like water, to target the other neighboring countries, she further added. Dr. Sriparna said that the mindless construction of dams by China in ecologically sensitive regions like Occupied Tibet, on the Majia Zangbu river, will badly impact natural habitats and its impact can be seen in the form of floods in Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and other Northeast regions.

“China is also supporting insurgent groups in the Northeastern region”, she said. Many insurgents of Northeastern are living in Yunnan Province of China and many have strong connections with Chinese agencies. “China’s proxy war against India in the Northeast region includes the supply of weapons, money laundering, abetment in internal violence and influencing electoral choices”, said Dr. Sriparna Pathak.

Dr. Rajiv Nayan elaborated on how the geographical location of Northeast India makes it very special. “Geography is constant, it cannot be changed”, he said. Dr. Rajiv Nayan delved into the history of geopolitics and how technological & scientific advances can significantly alter the benefits of geography. He said that despite technological advances, the State remains the principal geopolitical actor.

“The northeast region has significant strategic value and it is the gateway to Southeast Asia,” Dr. Rajiv Nayan said. He added that the Government of India has been working with the mantra of “Act Fast for Northeast, Act First for Northeast”. He said that the Government has transformed the “Look East Policy” into the “Act East Policy”. In the last 10 years, the Northeastern region of the country has witnessed significant transformation on the infrastructure front under the current leadership, he further added.

Dr. Shrabana Barua focused more on connectivity in the Northeast region and how it is transforming strategic aspects in the region. “Northeast has already been mainstreamed, it is very much a changed picture today for the region”, she said. Dr. Shrabana Barua stressed that we need to address the China factor in the Northeast region. She highlighted the example of China reviving the Burma road which can lead to an increase in smuggling and opium trade if it is constructed completely. She also informed the audience that China was planning to extend its reach to the Indian Ocean in the 1980s and it came to light in the form of String of Pearls in the 2000s.

The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative is doing good work in integrating the region with neighboring countries, she said. Dr. Shrabana Barua suggested that the Indian Government should utilize water resources in the northeast region to its greatest potential by strengthening inland water connectivity. She commended the Government’s works of building new bridges, connecting the region with Railways and building airports in the Northeast. Dr. Shrabana Barua concluded by saying that the picture has changed in the Northeast and we should move ahead with optimism but we still have a lot of work to do in the region.

Ms. Namrata Hasija, research fellow at the Centre for China Analysis & Strategy, moderated the session. She also remarked, “North East Region of India is set to play a crucial role in India’s grandiose plan of development. CCP China’s Belt and Road Initiative is being countered proactively & China’s evil plans are upfront now.” Ms. Kusuma, Research associate at Red Lantern Analytica delivered the vote of Thanks. The session closed after a brief Q&A session.

The team of Red Lantern Analytica, while launching this Virtual Conference, has hoped that the next edition of this annual affair can be organized in Arunachal Pradesh itself.

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