Estd. 2006
A Beacon of Hope: ITC DAN, Its Transformative Potential

Dr Aniruddha Babar

Professor: What do you see? Major, looking deep at the vast expanse of mountains spread across?

Major: Challenges, possibilities and victories, Professor. (Major takes a sip of his drink)

Major: And what do you see, Professor?

Professor: (Smiling) Possibilities, challenges, victories, and justice Major.

Major: (Raises his glass) Cheers to Noklak.

Professor: Cheers, Major.

Five strategic locations along the Indo-Myanmar border – Lungwa, Pangsha, Mimi, Mohe, and Avangkhu – stand poised to become thriving hubs for international trade and commercial activity. Among these, Pangsha, nestled in Noklak district, holds a unique position as a vital gateway to Southeast Asia, aligning seamlessly with the goals of India's "Act East" policy.

Launched in 2014, the Act East policy builds upon the groundwork laid by the earlier "Look East" policy of 1991. Both policies aimed to shift India's economic focus towards the dynamic and rapidly growing economies of Southeast Asia. Pangsha, with its proximity to Myanmar's Sagaing Region, embodies this strategic shift, acting as a critical link for cross-border trade and investment. 

The International Trading Center (ITC) at Dan, located within Pangsha, holds the key to unlocking the region's immense economic potential. By facilitating the smooth flow of goods and services across borders, the ITC can attract foreign investment, create job opportunities, and empower local communities to participate directly in the thriving trade ecosystem.

Understanding the interconnectedness of the Pangsha region, its people, and the ITC at Dan is vital for realizing the full potential of the Act East policy. The confluence of strategic location, economic opportunity, cultural exchange, bringing communities together and peacebuilding initiatives positions Pangsha as a critical hub in India's engagement with Southeast Asia. By investing in the development of the region and harnessing the potential of the ITC, India can unlock a new era of prosperity and collaboration, not only for itself but for the entire region and the local population.

Nestled amidst the rugged terrain of Nagaland, the International Trading Center (ITC) DAN (Pangsha) stands as a silent monument to unrealized potential. Yet, beneath its dormant exterior lies a sleeping giant, ready to awaken and unleash the economic and social prosperity of the region. The untouched beauty of the surrounding landscape masks the untapped opportunities waiting to be explored. With strategic activation and community engagement, this dormant center could become a catalyst for transformative change, breathing life into the aspirations of Noklak and the broader region, shaping a future characterized by unprecedented growth and fulfillment of its latent promises.

Strategically positioned at the crossroads of India and Myanmar, Noklak, where Dan ITC (26°17’27’’ N, 95°7’42’’ E) resides, holds the key to unlocking a vibrant economic corridor. Its proximity to the Naga Self-Administered Zone of Myanmar's Sagaing Region (Lahe Township: 26°19′46″N, 95°26′41″E, Lay shi Township: 26°25′45″N, 95°13′12″E and Nanyun Township: 26°05′08″N, 95°17′23″E) presents a unique opportunity to forge a pathway of cross-border trade, investment, and collaboration.

Further, the long and uncertain path back to peace in Manipur has jeopardized the standing of “Moreh” as the default route for Indo-Myanmar trade, and further underlined the need to develop an alternate to it. This confluence of factors transforms Noklak into a gateway for regional prosperity, with the Dan ITC serving as its beating heart. However, the current state of the ITC stands in stark contrast to its grand potential. Its dormancy represents a missed opportunity, a slumbering giant awaiting the touch of revival. Reopening its doors is not merely an economic imperative; it is a strategic necessity with far-reaching consequences not just for Noklak and its immediate surroundings, but for India's global ambitions as well. The dormant ITC, if revitalized, could serve as a dynamic catalyst, propelling Noklak onto the international stage, fostering economic growth, and contributing significantly to India's position in the ever-evolving global economic landscape.

Picture a bustling hub of activity at the revitalized Dan International Trading Center, alive with the dynamic exchange of goods between India and Myanmar. In this envisioned scenario, a seamless flow of Indian products enters Myanmar, while Burmese merchandise effortlessly makes its way into Indian markets. This transformed ITC becomes a pivotal conduit, fostering economic growth for both nations and aligning seamlessly with India's ambitious "Act East" policy objectives. Recognizing the strategic significance of Southeast Asia to India's economic trajectory, the Dan ITC transcends its local origins, transforming into a strategic asset with global implications, symbolizing India's expanding influence on the international economic stage.

However, the ITC DAN (Pangsha)’s impact extends far beyond its economic benefits. Its strategic location makes it a catalyst for job creation, offering a viable alternative to the allure of armed groups. By empowering individuals and families with economic stability, the ITC fosters a sense of self-sufficiency and contributes to the overall socio-economic development of the region.

Additionally, the ITC's proximity to local communities fosters an inclusive and equitable distribution of benefits, ensuring that everyone shares in the prosperity it generates.

Furthermore, the Dan ITC presents a unique opportunity to bridge the diplomatic divide and strengthen ties with neighbouring countries, particularly Myanmar. By facilitating seamless cross-border trade and building bridges among the communities in the region, the ITC can lay the foundation of peace in the region, build robust diplomatic relationships and pave the way for deeper collaboration on issues of mutual concern with Myanmar. This fosters a climate of trust and cooperation, contributing to regional stability and long-term peace.

The ITC DAN (Pangsha)’s international reach extends far beyond simply facilitating trade and diplomacy. By aligning with India's strategic priorities, Noklak can become a valuable asset, solidifying India's position on the global stage and furthering its economic and geopolitical interests. This strategic alliance not only benefits the region but also strengthens India's presence on the world map.

However, unlocking the full potential of the ITC DAN requires a focused and comprehensive approach. Infrastructure development, particularly in the areas of road connectivity and trade-related infrastructure, is paramount. Streamlining regulatory frameworks and simplifying bureaucratic procedures are equally crucial to attract investment and facilitate smooth trade operations. Additionally, logistical considerations, such as warehousing and storage facilities, must be addressed to ensure efficient handling of goods and prevent bottlenecks.

By addressing these challenges and harnessing its full potential, the Dan ITC can awaken the sleeping giant within, transforming whole Noklak from a sleepy, remote border district into a thriving center of economic activity, diplomatic engagement and cultural exchange. This transformation, in turn, can pave the path for a brighter future for the entire eastern region, the state of Nagaland and the nation at large characterized by peace, prosperity, and a harmonious relationship with neighboring countries.

Moreover, the benefits extend beyond the borders of Noklak and contribute to a larger narrative of peace and stability. By offering legitimate employment opportunities, particularly among the youth, the Dan ITC can address the issue of insurgency that has plagued the region for decades. With a viable alternative to armed groups, the ITC can discourage recruitment and contribute to long-term stability, fostering a peaceful future for generations to come.

However, recognizing the potential is only the first step.

Addressing challenges such as infrastructure limitations, bureaucratic hurdles, and logistical considerations is crucial for ensuring the success of the ITC and maximizing its impact. By proactively overcoming these obstacles, India can transform Pangsha region from a promising crossroads into a thriving center of trade, culture, and opportunity, forging a brighter future for all stakeholders involved.

Understanding the interconnectedness of the Pangsha region, its people, and the ITC at Dan is vital for realizing the full potential of the Act East policy. The confluence of strategic location, economic opportunity, cultural exchange, and peacebuilding initiatives positions Pangsha region as a critical hub in India's engagement with Southeast Asia. By investing in the development of the region and harnessing the potential of the ITC, India can unlock a new era of prosperity and collaboration, not only for itself but for the entire region.

In conclusion, the Dan International Trading Center emerges as more than just a facility; it stands as a beacon of hope, not only for Noklak but for the broader aspirations of Nagaland and beyond. The unlocking of its immense potential signifies a transformative force that can constructively reshape the entire region. The ITC has the power to catalyze economic growth by becoming a nucleus for cross-border trade, not just at a local level but on an international scale, forging economic alliances and collaborations. Beyond the economic realm, the center becomes a hub for cultural exchange, bridging communities across borders and fostering a rich tapestry of understanding.

This exchange not only contributes to the socio-cultural fabric but also plays a crucial role in building trust and cooperation, essential elements for sustainable peace and stability. As a strategic engine of growth, the Dan ITC is poised to propel Noklak and India onto the world stage, highlighting the region's potential and contributing significantly to the nation's global economic footprint. In essence, the ITC goes beyond being a trading center; it stands as a symbol of progress, unity, and a promising future for Noklak and the surrounding regions, solidifying its significance as a key player in the dynamic landscape of international trade and economic development.

(The writer is a faculty in the Department of Political Science at Tetso College in Nagaland)

December 14 2023