Conflict & Justice

Northeast India: The country's next hot spot or the world's next flashpoint?

India's Northeast is pitching for a piece of the "Incredible India" tourism campaign, but the region is still simmering with dozens of separatist insurgencies, with the nations on its borders often throwing gas on the fire, according to a renowned Asia hand.

“The northeast was not able to jump on the bandwagon of the campaign known as Incredible India,” the Wall Street Journal's India Real Time blog quoted U.K. Sangma, a senior official at the North Eastern Council, as saying Tuesday.

But that's about to change. According to the WSJ, wonks unveiled a 10-year marketing plan for the Northeast at Tuesday’s event, under which the region is to get its own tagline: “Paradise Unexplored.”

WSJ's Margherita Stancati lays out the region's attractions, as well as challenges like the lack of roads and hotels. But nobody spells out the downside better than Bertil Lintner, a Swedish journalist known among the profession for his amazing work inside Myanmar when it was virtually impenetrable to foreigners.

Writing for India's Outlook magazine, Lintner notes that Bangladesh, Pakistan, Myanmar and China have all stirred up trouble in India's Northeast by providing arms and safe haven to rebel groups. And he sees signals that the trouble isn't over, following this summer's violent conflict in Assam between Bodo tribals and Bengali-speaking Muslims (accused of being illegal immigrants).

As he puts it:

"The Kashmir conflict in India’s northwest may attract more attention from the outside world, but the conflict in the northeast is no less vicious, possibly claiming more lives and causing more mayhem. Assam’s commercial center, Guwahati, earned dubious distinction as one of the most bombed cities in the country. Bloody clashes between guerillas and the Indian army were part of everyday life in tribal hills."