In the previous article, I have mentioned the lecture on the topic of “Economic Relations between North East India and Thailand through the Thai perspective at Manipur University, India this past March.
I have talked about the cooperation on economic activities between the two countries, infrastructure projects especially the transportation linked from Thailand to North East India, the opportunities and limitations in trade, investment, and tourisms which exist between the two countries.
In this article, I will be presenting suggestions on ways to develop the relationship between Thailand and North East India region so to expand opportunities and reduce limitations on trade, investment and tourism among each other. I have 5 main points as followed.
The first is to expand the cooperation from bilateral to sub-regional
India pays attention to cooperation with Thailand because Thailand is the center of the Great Mekong Sub-region and as part of ASEAN which consists of more than 600 million as their population. On the other hand, the seven states in North East of India are very small. There were only 44.98 million people in the year 2011 in the region, which is not quite an attractive figure for inviting ASEAN cooperation. Also the seven states cannot be an open door to India because they are pretty far from the other states of India. Thus transportation through seas shall be the most convenient for connecting Thailand and India.
Therefore, I will be suggesting that Thailand and India should expand their cooperation from bilateral to sub-regional. The North East India can also push itself to become the center of Himalayan sub-region, which include the seven sister states of India, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh.
One way is to expand the transportation connection with neighboring countries of India such as through the India-Myanmar-Thailand trilateral highway project which can be expanded to include Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh as well. Also, opening free trade under the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMST-EC) would also be accelerated. This is so to ease the movement of commodities to neighboring countries and to develop tourism routes and programs of travelling in countries nearby.
The second is to strengthen the cooperation between ASEAN, India and China
Nowadays, India and China are in competition to influence the ASEAN region. India has attained some budget to provide to neighboring ASEAN countries for developing infrastructure projects, while China too has also given out money to the CLMV country group for developing infrastructure. There are many projects in which they seem to overlap however continue to lack cooperation between themselves.
Therefore, I would suggest that ASEAN should be a middle agent in building the relationship between the three parties including ASEAN, India and China. Specifically, the cooperation should be extended in developing railway system in ASEAN. India has a project of Delhi-Hanoi Railway Link, while China has a plan of building up Pan-Asia Railways, which consists of three railway routes connecting the Kunming in China with Myanmar, Laos, and Vietnam. ASEAN and the two countries shall cooperate in establishing the railway links in this region. This is so to standardize the railway system and to quickly get the projects running with enough supporting budgets and without any overlap.
The third is to build up networks across countries
The culture in doing businesses in Asia is mostly based on personal relationship. Doing businesses across borders, especially investing in neighborhood countries therefore shall require efforts on building up networks of personal relationships. Indian businesspersons who aim to invest in Thailand or Thai businesspersons who will be going out to invest in India shall then crucially need to find some connection in that country before going to invest.
Nowadays, there are ethnic Indians who live in Thailand up to two hundred thousand people and 80 percent of them are of Thai citizenship. Hence, I would suggest that Thailand and India should start building up the connection of ethnic Indians in Thailand. This is so to encourage a close relationship with Indians, especially the population in the seven North East India states, which can be beneficial to Indian investors while looking for business partners in Thailand and access to information or support for making businesses across cultures.
In the same way, the North East Indian state consists of many Tai ethnic groups, which have languages and cultures quite similar to people in the North of Thailand, Laos, and the south of China. Building up networks across borders between the Tai ethnic people and connecting with other networks such as scholars who specialize in cultures, businesspersons in tourism industry, or the group of oversea ethnic Indian businesspersons should be considered. This has the potential of being beneficial for the expansion of trade, investment, and the tourism across country.
The fourth is to harmonize laws and regulations
The laws and regulations of each states in India are different and not the same as in Thailand. Hence, Thailand and India or at least the states in North East India shall cooperate to harmonize their laws and regulations, especially, the laws and regulations, process and standards that relate to trade and investment between the two countries. This will facilitates foreign traders and investors and make the laws, regulations and the standard become friendly to investors.
The last is to reduce the information gap between countries
Thailand and North East India shall reduce the information gap among each other as the businesspersons and people of the two countries still do not know each other much and have low information exchange. The two countries shall increase channels of communication and methods and media for exchange of information such as the development of trade and investment database between Thailand and North East India. Also, the arrangement of structures to encourage meetings among investors from the two countries; the exchange of programs in TV media; the cooperation for budget for filming in Thailand sites or the seven states of India should also be considered so to increase the tourism among the two countries etc.
Thailand and North East of India should have closer economic relationship with each other, which is a great opportunity for businesses as well as for the people of the two countries. However, whether this relationship will be able to build up or not is not solely based on the treaties between the two countries or the infrastructure that is connected to each other. There is a need of specified strategies on the cooperation of other countries especially the powerful ones, the improvement in laws and regulations, along with creating ways for information exchange and the relationship of the people of the two countries to improve.