For the first time in half a century, India plans to let foreigners visit all of its troubled north east without special permits, opening up the picturesque region that New Delhi hopes will be its gateway to Southeast Asia, local media have reported.
If the proposal goes through, it will open up the eight north eastern states that remains a mystery even to many Indian, a region so unexplored that India’s tourism board sells it as “Paradise Unexplored.”
It could also give a fillip to the local economy, which now largely is sustained on federal handouts, creating jobs and boosting incomes in the states where separatist movements have tapped into resentment over lack of development.
Seven of these states are linked to the mainland through a narrow strip of land, called the Chicken’s Neck, that runs between China and Bangladesh. Foreigners need permits to go to every state except Assam, the most developed in the region, and even Indians need passes to go to some places.
For decades, the government has restricted access, worried about the influence of Christian missionaries and other outsiders on the native cultures of the tribespeople of the region and as it tried to keep a lid on rebellions. Foreigners can travel only in groups of at least four and must be accompanied by an approved guide.