Non-traditional threats stalk Kolkata-Kunming corridor

Institutional tie-ups needed to tackle problem

Leading Chinese scholars have proposed setting up a security mechanism and accelerating a legal dialogue among Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar, in order to turn the proposed BCIM corridor into an economic reality.

In a conversation with The Hindu, Ren Jia, president of the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, advocated a four-country institutional tie-up to address the non-traditional security threats to the BCIM project. “Security is a very important aspect of BCIM,” Dr. Ren said, pointing out that ethnic insurgencies, terrorism, drug trafficking and the accompanying spread of HIV infections, antiques smuggling, as well as cross-border human trafficking, threatened to derail the project.

The BCIM corridor is an ambitious undertaking that hopes to connect Kolkata with Kunming, capital of the Yunnan province. It envisages formation of a thriving economic belt, focusing on cross-border transport, energy and telecommunication networks.

Of late, the project has acquired fresh momentum under the theme of sub-regional cooperation. Starting from Kunming, the route passes through nodal points, such as Mandalay and Lashio in Myanmar. It heads towards Kolkata after passing through Manipur and Silchar, before crossing Bangladesh via Sylhet and Dhaka, with branches extending to the ports of Cox Bazar and Chittagong.

Chinese experts in Yunnan say that except for a 200-km stretch between Silchar in Assam and Manipur, and a similar length between Kalewa and Monywah in Myanmar, the central artery of the route is nearly functional.

Dr. Ren pointed out that if “the non-traditional threats to security are not addressed the establishment of the corridor would be endangered.”

Fighting between Myanmar Army and ethnic Kokang rebels, known as the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, based near the Chinese border, pose a threat to the network.

Call for active collaboration to sanitise BCIM corridor

The United Wa State Army, that has virtually a free reign in north-eastern Myanmar, and is known for a narcotics trafficking, poses a big security problem to the BCIM corridor. Communal violence involving Buddhists and Rohingya Muslims has also flared in Rakhine State.

The killing of 18 Indian soldiers in Manipur by Naga militants based in Myanmar has also sharpened focus on sanitising the corridor through active security collaboration by the four states.

Ren Jia, president of the Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences, pointed out that institutionalising a four-nation security partnership should become part of the recommendation of the Joint Study Group (JSG), which is expected to meet later this year in India.

Focusing “on strengthening connectivity in the BCIM region,” the JSG was formed two years ago following a Sino-Indian initiative at the prime ministerial level.

Asked whether it would be premature to forge a formal arrangement involving a joint command headquarters, intelligence sharing and joint operations to target security threats along the corridor, Dr. Ren said that the BCIM countries could draw lessons from the six-nation Greater Mekong Sub-region Economic Cooperation Programme “such as joint enforcement along the Mekong river.”

“So this is a good example, they have good experience for reference.”

“We can enforce security along the route for transportation, trade, and tourism,” she observed.

Regulatory framework

While problems related to physical connectivity maybe easier to address, establishing an appropriate legal and regulatory framework may prove harder.

Jin Cheng, deputy director-general of Yunnan’s International Regional Cooperation Office, advocates that the custodians of the BCIM project could again learn from the GMS grouping.

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Printable version | Feb 23, 2020 10:36:39 AM |

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