Research Project: The function of regional economic cooperation and multilevel diplomacy for conflict transformation in the border areas of North East India, South West China, Bangladesh and Myanmar
In the last decade, Asia has faced a new dynamic in establishing regional cooperation. This process of regionalization encompasses political, economic and cultural initiatives, and the so-called “Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar process” (BCIM) is one such example. But the region is dominated by three conflict formations which are interlinked across the borders: ethno-political contentions, resource conflicts and border disputes. At the same time, Sino-Indian relations have consistently improved in the last ten years ‒at least on the diplomatic and rhetorical level. Furthermore, in 2013 India and China agreed to establish a joint “Economic Corridor,” which eventually included also Bangladesh and Myanmar (BCIM EC). The objectives of the BCIM EC-project are the expansion of regional trade (i.e. by opening up new border posts), the accelerated exploitation of the resource-rich region, and the establishment of industrial growth zones and the promotion of cultural exchanges. What is more, there are plans to reconstruct the regional transportation infrastructure between Kolkata (the capital of Westbengal/India) and Kunming (the capital of Yunnan province/China), which has been blocked for decades. Additionally Kolkata and Kunming have agreed to become sister cities in 2013. It remains an open question, how far the joint declarations can be successfully implemented given the complexity of the existing tensions. Moreover, if policies are only selectively or partly implemented, current conflicts in the border region of Northeast India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Southwest China might aggravate.
The project first will analyze how actors hailing from India and China’s central and local governments (Track 1), the business community (Track 2) and civil society (Track 3) assess the current conflicts and what type of resolution – if any – they favor. Second, a case study of two important border posts ‒between Northeast India and Myanmar, and Myanmar and Southwest China, respectively‒ will be conducted with regard to the development of cross border trade and the effects of these changes in terms of an intensification or reduction of local tensions and an increase or decrease of transcultural interrelations.
The project reviews the hypothesis of the multi-level diplomacy concept Building Peace Across Borders from Alexander Ramsbotham and William Zartman, according to which successful peace initiatives in regional conflict systems are able to overcome national blockades through a cooperation of local, cross-border, non-governmental and regional, multilateral initiatives. Particular importance in this regard is ascribed to Track 2 and Track 3 actors, who are capable to use cross-border trade as a starting point for a regional “peace economy”.
Among the expected results of the pilot study are:
an assessment on how far conflict resolution policies are regarded significant by the actors involved in the BCIM EC project,
an analysis of the peace-promoting quality of two border post-regimes,
the formulation of approaches to defuse tensions by "peace economy"-initiatives and transcultural references.
The originality of the research project lies firstly in the analyses of current prospects of the BCIM EC project through two case studies, and secondly in the combination of perspectives of the traditionally separated regional research areas of South and East Asian Studies.
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- „Green Governance: Perceptions of Risks and Crises in China, India and Bangladesh” (project period: 2009-2012, funded by BMBF at University of Duisburg-Essen)
- "Decision-Making in Chinese Villages" (project period: 2004-2009, at University of Duisburg-Essen)
- "Elections, Participation and socio-political Stability in China" (project period: 2002 – 2007, funded by DFG at University of Duisburg-Essen)
- "An International Comparative Study on Village Governance: Case Studies from India, China, Hungary and Germany" (project period: 2005-2006, funded by Inwent and Institute for Comparative Politics and Economics, Beijing)
- "Corruption in Hong Kong (Project Period: 1999-2001, Center of East Asian Studies, University of Trier)
- "Asian Miracle and Asian Values: Business Ethics, Democracy and Human Rights Perceptions in Asia" (project period: 1994 – 1997, Center of East Asian Studies, University of Trier)