Development: A Key For Sustaining Peace In Northeast India
By Gaurav Gogoi
Sustaining Peace In Northeast India: Changing Dimensions
Development – an unheard tool to achieve peace
While the idea of promoting development to achieve peace in conflict areas has been studied within various academic circles, no consensus has been achieved on whether development leads to peace. The dominant response to conflict situations has been strategic military response on the part of state and national governments. Yet this approach has been increasingly advocated by international donors and development agencies like the World Bank, Mercy Corps and Department for International Development. Multi-lateral efforts towards the conflict in Afghanistan saw development projects taking place in conjunction with the military push into tribal and remote areas of the country.
In India, the state of Assam has championed the cause of promoting peace through development. Since 1979 the state has been mired in ethnic and extremist related violence. Socio-economic development indicators within the state saw a dramatic drop over the next twenty years. The state assembly elections in 2001 projected a veteran politician into the leadership of the state government. Over the next eleven years, under his leadership the state experienced both economic progress and steady improvement in human development indicators. Giving credence to his peace through development approach, incidents related to terrorism declined significant and large number of militants relinquished their weapons and rejected their extremist groups. A majority of the extremist groups have entered into peace agreements with the state government. While developmental strategies alone did not bring the turn-around in the state, it is nonetheless remained a vital strategy to usher in era of peace in a state starved by conflict.
This paper discusses the emergence of the “peace through development” approach in Assam, and elucidates on what more needs to be done by the state government. The story of Assam’s success has possible implications for the rest of the country in the face of rising influence of Maoist armed groups. Described as the greatest internal security threat facing the country, the Maoist groups under the banner of the Communist Party of India (Maoist) CPI(M) have reportedly spread over to 23 of the 28 states in India. Intelligence reports indicate a recent collaboration between remnants of the insurgent groups in Assam with the CPI (M). This indicates that the peace through development approach still hold relevance for Assam and needs to be modified in order to engage this latest development.