India’s Northeast (NE) has been off limits for foreigners for a long time for various reasons, the main being the State’s excessive concern about national security. But the good news is that the Centre is planning to open up the Northeast, following requests from the governments of the border states. Under the Foreigners (Protected Areas) Order, 1958, all areas falling between the ‘Inner line’ and the International Border of the State are considered a ‘Protected Area’. In the Northeast, this rule is applicable to Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Manipur, Mizoram and Nagaland. Other Indian states that have similar restrictions are parts of Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand. Under this order, every foreigner, except a citizen of Bhutan, who wants to enter and stay in a protected area, is required to get a special permit. Citizens of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan and foreign nationals of Pakistani origin are not issued the permit without the home ministry’s approval.
If this promise of opening up this breathtakingly beautiful region actually materialises and the states develop their infrastructure and capitalise on the existing educated human resources, the tourism sector can build on them. The spin-offs could be multiple: employment, better infrastructure, and improved revenue generation. From the Centre’s perspective, this could be the appropriate reply to China’s constant claims on Arunachal’s territory. This is a far better approach than pursing an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation.
However, since this opening of the region will be a gradual and a planned one, the State must ensure that it does not make the mistakes that it has done in tourist areas in other states. It must ensure that there is little disturbance to the fragile ecosystem of the area and, more critically, a carrying-capacity report must be prepared for each tourist location so that there is a reasonable cap on the number of people that can visit the area. This will help these areas to develop sustainably and remain attractive at the same time.
Courtesy – Hindustan Times.