Cosmetic Federalism and the Politics of Development1
Arunachal Pradesh, part of the eastern Himalayas, boasts pristine forests and intact mega-biodiversity. With a fragile mountain ecosystem, the state is an ideal candidate for sustainable development. This chapter examines how the discourse of development has emerged in Arunachal, and argues that the goal of nationalizing a frontier space has been the major thrust of Indian policy vis-à-vis Northeast India in general and Arunachal in particular. It explores the way in which this national security driven process, following the 1962 border war between India and China, has resulted in the creation of a special regional dispensation of small and financially dependent states that, in a formal sense, are autonomous in terms of India’s federal polity. However, in terms of power vis-à-vis the central government, this form of federalism is little more than cosmetic. The chapter contends that, in the attempt to nationalize this space, the logic of developmentalism is no doubt embedded in state institutions but at significant social, environmental, and political costs.
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